Science Department to see repairs

For the next few years science majors will have to pardon University construction as the Science department gets a major makeover, complete with more square footage.

On May 15 the Board of Regents approved a $57 million renovation project allocated by state funds for UH science facilities.

The project will add a two-story, 60,000-square-foot wing to the Fleming Building in order to house most of the undergraduate science laboratories that are currently spread out among a slew of UH’s science buildings.

"Some of these buildings need a major overhaul, and unless you move everyone out, you can’t do that," said Larry Rapp, associate chair of Undergraduate Affairs of the department of biology and biochemistry.

Science Building, Science and Research 1 and the Fleming Building will receive major interior remodeling and infrastructure updates once a new Fleming Building wing is completed and the labs from the older buildings are moved into it.

Updates need to be made in areas that aren’t aesthetically apparent such as the fire safety and electrical systems, which are outdated, said UH associate vice president of plant operations Dave Irvin.

"If too many machines in the Science building are plugged in at the same time, you can have a system overload so instructors have to coordinate which machines must be plugged in at certain times to prevent this," Irvin said.

The fact that the fire codes are outdated does not make the buildings dangerous, Irvin said.

"We would never put our students in danger, since the buildings were first done, the (fire safety) codes have changed. And as a state agency we are required to update them, so we will."

In addition to updating fire safety codes, the project will add some needed space for both the Science departments and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

"Biology labs are very popular," Rapp said. "When I first got here in 2001 we had 16 sections of the; Introduction to biological Sciences’ lab. Now we have 22 sections and they always fill up. We have outgrown the space in this building."

The Science Building’s interior will be torn down and remodeled with classrooms for CLASS, Irvin said. The renovated building will keep its same exterior but will eventually be renamed since no science courses will be taught there.

"This will provide the opportunity for UH to offer more courses at prime-time hours, and to offer them in state-of-the-art facilities," Vice President of Academic Affairs and provost Donald Foss said.

"Right now we are in the process of hiring an architecture firm to design the project," Irvin said. "The Fleming wing will be built first and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2010."

The construction of the new wing will begin before the end of this year and the entire project is slated for completion by summer 2011.

"We will see a great improvement in undergraduate laboratory facilities, and just at a time when we are re-emphasizing the role of research in undergraduate education," Foss said.

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