College Finalizes Science Center Design
Issue   |   Wed, 11/04/2015 - 02:39
Kyra Gardner '18
Students study in Keefe Science Library on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 3. The library in the new science center will feature more open study spaces and will not be separated by walls from the rest of the building.

Design plans for the college’s new science center are set to be finalized in the coming weeks. The facilities department held information sessions on the plans and designs of the new center in Valentine Dining Hall, Merrill Science Center and Lewis-Sebring Commons over the past week. At these information sessions, facilities presented a model of the center, and project architects were available to answer students’ questions.

“It’s been a terrific process, and there has been a lot of creative thought, not only from the designers, who are experts in academic science facilities, but also from the faculty, as well as the administration,” said Tom Davies, director of design and construction.

Discussions about a science center to replace Merrill began in 2006, in a small committee comprised of administrators and faculty. One plan, which called for the new center to be built in the location of Merrill, was abandoned in the spring of 2013. The prospective location on east campus was presented that fall, in conjunction with plans for the Greenway project.

According to the design plans, the new center will feature more open rooms and common spaces than Merrill. Both Davies and professor of chemistry Mark Marshall said Merrill tends to foster seclusion rather than collaboration. A goal of the new structure is to encourage greater interaction within and among the science departments. To that end, laboratories for introductory courses will be placed directly adjacent to the main entrance, and upper-level chemistry laboratories will be separated by area of specialty across three floors.

The plans also aim to make the science departments more open and accessible to the college community for both scientific and interdisciplinary research.

“Psychology has never had adequate research space and the new building will provide appropriate space for the faculty that will be designed to meet their specific research needs,” said Sarah Turgeon, a professor of psychology and neuroscience. “For example, laboratories for faculty members who study non-student populations will be located near entrances and parking so that research participants can access the facilities easily.”

Davies said that an emphasis has been placed on environmental sustainability in the design of the new center, as Merrill was built in the 1960s, when energy was cheaper.

“The things that are the most self-evident in building design, that speak to sustainability, really aren’t the things that do the work to make a building consume less fuel,” Davies said. “The things that really do the work are buried in mechanical systems, sophisticated software systems.”

The building will feature an advanced heat reclaim system, which will extract hot or cold air from its exhaust stream and eject it into the building’s air intake. The system was implemented in Beneski last year as a trial run. A stormwater capture system will collect water from the eastern side of campus, and according to Davies, will thereby reduce the college’s potable water consumption from the local reservoir by about one million gallons per year.

The new science center is also intended to solve practical inconveniences that arise from Merrill’s outdated facilities.
“Many of the systems in this building have reached the end of their design life, and aren’t working anymore,” said Marshall. “Basically, there are experiments that I can’t do because the air quality in this building is not good enough.”

According to Davies, the new center will also feature open study spaces, lounges and workstations that are open to the entire campus. Unlike Keefe Science Library, the new science library will not be walled off from the rest of the building.

“This building is going to send a message that science wants to interact with the campus community, and by extension, to the world at large,” Marshall said.

The next information session will be held Wednesday, Nov. 4. Construction is scheduled to begin this coming May following commencement, and finish during August 2018.

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