Union College officially announced that it will be constructing a new Science and Engineering Building to replace current facilities shortly after getting unanimous approval to move forward from the Union College Board of Trustees on February 25, 2017. With a cost of $100 million, the project has been deemed by President Ainley as the most ambitious construction in Union’s history.
After completion, the new Science and Engineering Facilities will rank among those of the finest collegiate institutions in the country. This project is the next step in Union’s plans to upgrade the facilities of the majority of academic buildings throughout campus. Most recently, Karp Hall and the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts have been remodeled to enhance the quality of education of Union students in all fields for the 21st century. A ceremony for the new Science and Engineering Building will occur during Union’s ReUnion weekend on May 20, 2017. The entire project will take about three years to complete, and the process has been divided into various phases.
According to Director of Facilities and Planning Loren Rucinski, there will be four phases to the project, the first of which was completed this past summer. The new addition will “be completed for the beginning of fall term 2018,” said Rucinski, while the “renovation of towers one, two and three will be completed in the fall of 2019.” Towers refer to various sections of the current Science and Engineering Building. The final phase, to be completed in early 2020, will include demolition of towers four and five. Rucinski and Facilities Services are responsible for both managing the day-to-day operations involved with maintaining the campus as well as managing the renovation and construction of capital projects at Union.
Besides having the design and construction team involved throughout the design process of the project, in terms of the types of material and building systems that are planned, Rucinski stated, “There is also a design committee made up of faculty and administrators that have been heavily involved in the types of programs and use of the space within the building.”
In addition to students, faculty will also benefit significantly from the new building. The new facilities will increase the amount and quality of resources for the faculty to teach with and conduct research with students. Rucinski stated, “The existing space is outdated and not only at the end of its useful life, but also not designed wide enough to support the larger teaching and research lab space required in today’s world.” Dr. Wendy Sternberg, Dean of Academic Departments and Programs, assured students that even though the current facilities of the Science and Engineering Building is relatively outdated, it satisfies all safety requirements, the new building will allow science labs to deal with more materials.
Sternberg stated, “The ventilation of the current facilities meets all standards, but is old and can’t handle certain chemical fumes in science labs…. the new building will not have these limitations.” Of the $100 million total cost of the project, $90 million of that will go towards construction. The other $10 million will pay for the cost of maintenance. $50 million of the total cost will come from fundraising and Union’s reserves and the other half from borrowing. Dr. Sternberg stated, “None of these funds will come from Union’s endowment.” Much of the funds for this project have accumulated over the past few years from alumni donations.
At this point in the process, the physical size of various classrooms have been reduced to allow for new walls to be built in order. This is preparation for construction, as it will provide more room for the new building to be constructed. Students are able to see this change, but are not negatively affected. Students have already observed many of these changes. “The area of the Science and Engineering courtyard will remain off limits to pedestrians as it is today, so the doors that are closed off now will remain that way,” said Rucinski, referring to one of changes already occurring on campus.
The community will be able to stay up to date on what is going on, as Rucinski stated, “there will be a website that anyone can visit that will update the community on what is happening and what will be happening as things change through the various phases of construction.” According to Rucinksi, “The existing space in Science and Engineering will still be operational. There will be some disruption, however we plan to mitigate that through scheduling the disruptive work and having certain areas closest to the construction taken offline. By building the new building, we can include space that can be used for a mechanical penthouse that can supply all of the complex mechanical systems that are required to supply the entire science center.”
Once the construction of the new building is finished, students and faculty alike will immediately move into the new building and vacate the old facilities. As Rucinski mentioned, “by phasing the project the way we have, the Science and Engineering Center will never be completely offline, so students will have the opportunity to experience the new spaces as they are completed.” In the fall of 2018, most science and engineering students can expect their classes to take place in the new building with the older science and engineering facilities empty in preparation of their demolition.
During this time, outdoor areas around the older buildings will be blocked off to ensure the safety of the community. The administration does not plan to negatively affect traffic flow. As construction commences, students can expect a significant amount of noise coming from the construction site. Union administration are aware of this coming issue and have planned to minimize construction during times such as finals week. The appearance of the new Science and Engineering building can be viewed on the 3-dimensional layout plan located on page 1. If you would like to learn more about the project, please visit union.edu/se.