Kline renovations on track

Renovations of the Kline Chemistry Laboratory are proceeding on schedule with little impact on classes or faculty research.

After administrators announced plans for the $50 million renovation of KCL in December 2011, the building was vacated last summer and researchers moved their work to spaces in the adjacent Sterling Chemistry Laboratory. While KCL construction to date has primarily focused on demolition, Associate Provost for Science and Technology Timothy O’Connor said workers are now beginning the project’s reconstruction phase. Renovations are currently on budget and the building is scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2014, O’Connor said.

“The renovations are going to have a huge impact on the University,” O’Connor said. “Kline will have new cutting-edge research space for faculty in the Chemistry Department, and having this new space will be critical for recruiting the best faculty in the world.”

Starting in 2005, the University began formulating plans for a massive $500 million construction project on Science Hill, which would have included demolition of KCL, to create a new space to house all of Yale’s undergraduate teaching labs. Yale put the project on hold due to financial constraints caused by the onset of the economic recession in 2008 and instead decided to prioritize renovation of KCL.

Professor of chemistry Charles Schmuttenmaer has previously conducted research in KCL and said that the lab was in clear need of renovation. He cited specific problems such as broken temperature controls and an outdated air-handling system.

“The humidity levels were atrocious, and the pipes dripped water into my lab. It was unbelievable,” Schmuttenmaer said. “I’m glad the renovations seem to be on an aggressive, fast schedule.”

While classes at SCL have been minimally impacted by the renovation, O’Connor said there have been several reports of minor disruptions. Thomas Stilwell ’16 said that though he saw workers demolishing KCL, the construction never impacted his CHEM 114 class in SCL.

“There have been some blips along the way, incidents of fire alarms sounded,” O’Connor said. “But whenever you’re doing renovation, problems are bound to come up.”

He added that by the time renovations began, there were very few researchers still using lab spaces at KCL.

President Levin said in February 2012 that the original $500 million plan for construction on Science Hill, first announced prior to the recession, would have included the creation of an Undergraduate Science Center with new classrooms, research spaces, a dining hall and a gym. Though the Science Center would have offered great value to the Yale community, faculty understand the University’s budget constraints, Schmuttenmaer said.

“It would have been wonderful to have a hub up here, but the reality is that when the recession started, the endowment took a big hit, and we had to readjust our view,” Schmuttenmaer said.

This summer, the University plans to begin renovations on SCL, expanding spaces for teaching and research. Some of the research laboratories at SCL were renovated in summer 2012, and Schmuttenmaer said the improvements are noticeable.

O’Connor said he hopes that construction at KCL will meet the need for new research resources, and SCL renovations will offer the University expanded spaces for teaching.

“Research and teaching are the two tenets at the core of the University’s mission,” O’Connor said.

SCL was first constructed in 1923.

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