By Justin Fleming

Managing Editor

If you happened to be around campus early this week, and you have operational eyes, chances are pretty good that you noticed that just about the entire University seemed to be under varying levels of construction.

Hutchinson Hall's brand new chemistry lab

You’ve probably already heard all about the new Raymond F. LeChase Hall (better known as the new Warner building), which is slated to be move-in-ready for the Warner School of Education by early 2013.  In the shadow of this construction, however, numerous other projects to improve student life at the University have been finishing up this week as well.

For all the Chemistry majors or Pre-Med hopefuls out there; the finishing touches are currently being put on a new, state-of-the-art, 2,400-square-foot chemistry lab on the first floor of Hutchinson Hall.

The lab, which replaces a workspace that had gone essentially unchanged for 40 years, boasts a massive increase in energy efficiency over its predecessor.

It features entirely energy-efficient LED lighting, occupancy sensors that cut the air-exchange rate in half when the lab is unoccupied, advanced new fume hoods that recirculate the air (rather than expelling it from the room like the old hoods) and more. According to Assistant Chair for Administration of the Chemistry Department Ken Simolo, the updates to the fume hoods alone could result in an extreme reduction of yearly costs to run the hoods, from around $10,000 a year down to about $350.

Another central design point of the new lab is to promote collaboration and discussion. The lab’s large central space will be used for pre-lab workshops, which previously had to be held in a different room.

Several of the lab’s new technologies also work toward this goal, including a full projector system, data ports for students to display material from their personal laptops on the projector, a sound system that connects to wireless microphones to be worn by the TA’s and the quietest fume hoods in the chemistry department.

“Part of the workshop model is to give students a chance to analyze problems, and I think this lab will give them a chance to get a better depth of understanding,” Chemistry Professor Thomas Krugh said. “If someone’s seeing something interesting, this setup gives [the group] the opportunity to ask, ‘What’s going on and why?’”

Aside from the chemistry lab, most of the small-scale constructions across campus will be finishing up this week as well.

According to Director of Campus Planning, Design and Construction Management Paul Spaulding, the bridge that connects the Academic Quadrangle to Wilson Commons was closed due to the installation of new waterproofing and drains. In addition, the tunnel underneath that bridge was undergoing water damage repair, as well as the installation of new windows, ceiling tile, wall board and carpeting.

A brief aside about that tunnel: last year, the bridge started leaking in the winter, so at one point the dripping area was sectioned off, and at another point a large bucket was rather comically placed below the leaky ceiling. So although the Class of 2015 might take this construction for granted, it will certainly come as a welcome improvement to the older members of the student body.

The sidewalk that connects Wilson Commons to the Goergen Athletic Center will also be re-opened this week. According to Spaulding, during this construction, “the asphalt sidewalk was replaced with a concrete walk and aligned with the stairs at Wilson Commons, per the original plans for Dandelion Square.”

Additionally, a new footbridge over Wilson Blvd. at the south end of campus was recently completed, which should improve access to the River Campus from the Medical Center and Southside Living Center.

Restrooms have also been renovated in Hoyt Auditorium and in Rush Rhees Library by the bus stops — another one of those much welcome improvements.

So while earlier in the week the campus may have looked just a tad chaotic, by next week most of that construction should be completed and cleared away. Construction on the Warner Building will continue, however, and ground will soon be broken  behind Towers for the first new dormitory in 42 years behind Towers.

Don’t worry Class of 2015. If all goes according to schedule, both projects will be done by your junior year.

Fleming is a member of the class of 2013.

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