Friday, April 27, 2012

The Case for Funding WSU's New Science Building

I had an opportunity to visit with David Matty, the Dean of the College of Science at WSU,  and tour the science facility at the University.  What I found was quite shocking.

Built in 1969, the edifice embodies all the trimmings of the structures built during that era.   I am sure at the time, the College of Science looked at its facility as boldly going where facilities had not gone before. 

It appears now, however, that this facility has been there and done that.  It's design lacks what most of us would consider desirable.  It has long windowless corridors with dreary cinder block labs and classrooms.

Here is an example of a working lab which was converted from an old cargo loading bay.  Check out the cool 5 1/4" floppy drives on those computers servicing the gas spectrochromotograph.  We have to give our college students and faculty credit for being resourceful enough to continue using this equipment, let alone improvising with the inadequate space they have.

Here is a classroom which is representative of most classrooms.  No, it's not in the basement; but you can't tell either way.

And while you are there make sure the ceiling doesn't drip something on you.  The dripping ruins tabletops.

 Space is so scarce that this chemical storage room doubles as an office storage closet.

What I found remarkable for "newer" 1960's construction (keep in mind that I work with 110 year old buildings for a living), the entire north section of the building sags.  The settling has telegraphed up several floors of the building and caused floor tiles to crack due to the stress.  This particular crack is about 8 feet long. 

Can I give you a hand?

The exterior of the building is laden with signs of deterioration.  The window panels are woefully inadequate for temperature control in the building as well.

The geography of the building couldn't be in a worse spot.  The Wasatch Fault scarp is located on the east end of the Science Building parking lot.    

Given that science and technology drive our economy, it doesn't speak well of WSU or the State of Utah to tolerate such poor conditions in this area.  How are we expected to recruit students to these important fields when providing such squalid facilities?

So, what is the solution to this issue?  The answer is the construction of a new facility to meet the needs of today's science students.  It is projected that a new structure will cost about $63 Million for 200,000 SQFT of space.  That is about $315/SQFT.  The average cost of construction across the U.S. for science buildings is about $400/SQFT.  Perhaps a new building should be designed to better withstand the test of time, be more adaptable to future needs, and constructed in such a manner to last for several generations. 

Here is a summary of the current proposal:
New Weber Science Building

It's time to take a fresh look at this project and at the very least provide the funds for planning and designing a new structure this next legislative season.

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