As part of the Wisconsin Initiative for State Technology and Applied Research (WISTAR), the University of Wisconsin recently opened the Department of Chemistry Graduate Research Tower. The $38.9-million expansion and renovation marks a renewal point in the Department's research and instructional facilities.
WISTAR is a state-sponsored program designed to help the University of Wisconsin System respond to the challenge of numerous aging and deteriorating research buildings. In the past decade, with a public-private fundraising partnership, the program has helped to raise more than $200 million. This funding enables the state to use its bonding authority, coupled with private gift and non-state funds, to pay for badly needed repairs, renovations, and construction projects of research facilities.
The Mathews Chemistry Laboratories and the Daniels Chemistry Building, built for the Department of Chemistry in 1963 and 1967 respectively, originally provided the required research space for the Department. However, the aging buildings fell behind current standards for safe and productive laboratories. The large, adjoining buildings were originally designed with 12' floor-to-floor heights. This prevented the addition of new technology in MEP systems because of inadequate ceiling space to house them. Painted masonry walls offered limited flexibility in changing the lab configurations over time to reflect new science. The buildings offered little to inspire prospective chemistry students.
Renovations to the Mathews and Daniels buildings are currently under way. The work will be done in phases to minimize research disruption with the final areas planned for completion in November of 2002. Improving safety in the research laboratories is a top priority, which includes increased fume hood access for researchers as well as installation of localized benchtop exhaust systems. Other safety concerns addressed by the renovation include improving exit pathways and providing eyewash stations within the lab proper.
A new 91,000-gsf expansion provides laboratories for the synthetic chemistry program that allow for more hazardous research activities while enhancing health and safety. The new labs benefit from a modern ventilation strategy, whereby each student has his or her own chemical fume hood, which ensures that the air is well ventilated and safe. The 16' floor-to-floor height easily accommodates the mechanical systems.
Separate student offices are not only incorporated into the new Research Tower, but are also being added to the existing buildings during the renovation. Although separate, the offices provide good visibility into the laboratories by using doors with half-height glass and borrowed lights. In the existing laboratories, student desks were located directly inside the laboratory environment, which is no longer an acceptable standard for the study of chemistry.
A separate expansion, completed in August 2001, provides a 127-seat seminar hall. Located at the knuckle between the Mathews and Daniels buildings, the Seminar Hall creates a unified Chemistry complex. Each seat in the Hall is equipped with a data jack, power outlet, and task light facilitating the use of laptop computers. The Seminar Hall has been outfitted with the latest audio/visual equipment.
Even before the new Chemistry Tower opened, it had already fulfilled one of its goals: to recruit and retain top faculty. The promise of new facilities help to retain top faculty members, who otherwise might have gone to other universities, and helped to recruit new faculty members.
Occupying most of a city block, the three Chemistry buildings house undergraduate and graduate organic and inorganic synthetic, analytical, basic research, and physical chemistry labs. The new tower provides graduate research labs and support space, an instrument center, and imaging facilities. Flexibility is established via the buildings clear circulation pattern and modular utility distribution system.
The expansion and renovation also benefits the city of Madison. A process cooling water loop for cooling major equipment cuts the Chemistry Department's consumption of city water by two-thirds. The local urban environment benefits with a completely new presence for the Chemistry Department facing a major thoroughfare and surrounding sidewalks now comply with the Americans Disabilities Act.
The Chemistry Research Tower is the recipient of a 2001 AIA Wisconsin Honor Award for its design.