Seventeen months after renovations on Sterling Chemistry Laboratory began, students and faculty are still dealing with the effects of working alongside a major construction site.
The $130 million project, which began in May 2013, will upgrade the facility’s teaching laboratories. The renovation of the chemistry building is part of a broader Science Hill development that seeks to consolidate science facilities and facilitate interdisciplinary conversation between STEM majors on campus, said Deputy Provost for Science and Technology Steve Girvin. Though the SCL project is on track to be completed in August 2016, Associate Provost for Science and Technology Jim Slattery acknowledged that it has not come without a certain level of inconvenience.
“It has been somewhat noisier and more intrusive than anyone had hoped,” he said. He added, however, that such problems are inevitable in any major construction project.
The project aims to completely renovate the inside of the building while maintaining the exterior’s appearance.
Currently, the north half of the building, where the main teaching laboratories are located, has been excavated and the roof has been removed.
“[The construction is] basically a building going up inside a building,” said Patrick Vaccaro, director of undergraduate studies for the chemistry department.
Meanwhile, administrators have done their best to preserve day-to-day operations — including classes and research — in SCL, Slattery said. He added that some faculty’s offices and teaching spaces had to be moved as a result. While most of these arrangements were made over the summer so that students would not have to move around once classes had begun, Slattery said a few classrooms had to move during the year when the noise from construction was too loud.
Still, both Slattery and Vaccaro said they were happy with the way renovations were progressing.
However, the project has not come without trouble.
Chemistry professor Kurt Zilm said that while he believes the renovations are necessary and looks forward to the final product, his research has been set back by the construction and his lab probably will not be fully functional until this coming January.
“My lab lost over half of the past year in operating time because of construction related moves and outages,” Zilm said in an email. “Much of this was planned, and some was unplanned. We’re not fully operational yet. We had hoped to be up and running by the beginning of September, but the project just didn’t develop as hoped.”
Herman Nikolayevskiy GRD ’17 said the constantly changing maze of corridors that resulted from the construction makes traveling between SCL and the adjacent Class of 1954 Chemistry Research Building an inconvenience.
Slattery added that these plans have been in the works for several years and will remain largely unaffected by any University budget issues.
“We’re conscious of spending and not changing a lot of plans, but overall I think it’s just about making smart decisions,” Slattery said.
Slattery said no renovation plans have been scaled back.
Still, Zilm expressed doubts about the cost-effectiveness of the project, given the added inconveniences.
“Whatever small savings renovating was imagined to bring must have long since evaporated, as extra work has been added to keep the activities in SCL continuing,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll remember this as a community the next time there is a large building effort.”
Planning for SCL’s renovation began in 2008.