Coming Soon — A New Chemistry Building

By John Moore and Bob McMahon, project leaders

New Building InteriorEarlier this year, the State Building Commission approved an increased budget of $133.1 million for the Chemistry Building Project, the project went out for bids, and construction is underway.

That is a huge milestone in progress toward improving department facilities. The project includes a new nine-story tower; renovation of the basement, first, and second floors of the Daniels wing; extensive mechanical upgrades to existing buildings; and important safety upgrades.

Getting to this point and going from here to completion of the project represents a huge collaborative effort on the part of our department, the architectural design team, the University, and the state. That collaboration ultimately will span more than a decade, beginning in 2012 with a Space Assessment and Feasibility Study that had input from the entire department and was completed by Aro Eberle and Ballinger architects, continuing through the preliminary and final design carried out by Strang and Ballinger with major input from faculty and instructional staff, and culminating in completion of the project by Miron Construction. The chancellor of UW-Madison, the president of the UW Foundation, the dean of L&S, the UW System, in collaboration with the state of Wisconsin, have all helped develop and fund this much-needed project. Generous contributions have been received from friends of the campus and the department, chemistry alumni, and current and emeritus members of the faculty and staff. We thank everyone for bringing us to the beginning of a new era!

When construction and renovation are complete, we will have these improvements:

  • New instructional laboratories, each with an adjacent write-up room, for all undergraduate courses—general, organic, analytical, inorganic, and physical chemistry
  • an advanced synthetic chemistry laboratory and anundergraduate special projects laboratory
  • state-of-the art lecture rooms that facilitate small-group interactions and have enhanced lecture-demonstration and audio-visual capabilities
  • classrooms and write-up rooms equipped with flexible seating to support active learning
  • a multipurpose learning studio that will facilitate our exploration of new and better ways of teaching as well as providing a venue for poster sessions and receptions
  • large atrium and many other spaces where students can study and interact informally
  • an information commons pioneering the future facilities plan of the university library system
  • improved offices and meeting rooms to support staff, advising, and instruction
  • much-needed improvements in air supply and exhaust systems for research labs in Mathews and Daniels wings
  • a new fire-alarm system coordinating all four wings of the chemistry complex
  • fire sprinklers and fire doors in Mathews and Daniels that improve research-lab safety

The new facilities will enhance our department’s excellent program of undergraduate chemistry education, especially our trend toward active/collaborative learning. The learning studio will be in great demand for active-learning classes and will support the REACH program, a transformational pedagogical initiative described in last year’s Badger Chemist. The information commons is a harbinger of libraries to come.

Demolition and construction are coming at an opportune time. During the next five years the UW-Madison will significantly increase undergraduate enrollment and 55 percent of UW-Madison undergraduate students take at least one chemistry course, so our enrollments will continue their three-decade upward trend. The construction/renovation project will afford a much needed 67 percent increase in organic lab space and more than 50 percent increase in general chemistry lab space. There will be more Badger Chemists in the future!

Analytical Chemistry courses are currently using these temporary facilities in the Medical Sciences Center.
Analytical Chemistry courses are currently using these temporary facilities in the Medical Sciences Center.

We are excited that the new building will soon be underway, but change is never simple. For the next three years parts of our instructional program will be in temporary quarters. Analytical labs have already moved to renovated space across University Avenue in the Medical Sciences Center (MSC) (see photo) and many chemistry lectures are being given in rooms 10 minutes away from our building. When the analytical floor in the new tower is complete, part of the general chemistry program will move to the MSC and part will use what will eventually be the physical/advanced analytical laboratories in the new tower. By 2022, we expect that everyone will be in new labs, including some renovated general chemistry labs and a new home for the Chemistry Learning Center in the MSC. Between now and then lots of things will be in flux!