Construction Update 06/28/2021

Move-in Postponed

We regret having to report that move-in to the new tower has been postponed. At this writing we do not know how long the postponement will be, but later this week we expect to know more about when we can move. Email notices will be provided as soon as possible.

Last week we learned that the elevators in the new tower had failed their pressurization test—twice. Elevator pressurization is a life-safety issue. In the event of fire, smoke and fumes are prevented from entering the elevator shafts by increased air pressure in the shafts. As a result of a design flaw, that pressure currently is insufficient and the pressurization test failed. A plan is in place for correcting the problem, but it will take time to order and take shipment of the necessary mechanical and electrical components and to install and test them. The Madison Fire Department will not permit occupancy of the building until the elevator pressurization system functions properly. Hence we cannot move in beginning 12 July as we had planned. Moving in, unpacking, and getting ready for fall classes will have to be squeezed into a very short time.

Historical Perspective

We are, of course, disappointed by postponement of our move to the new tower, but temporary setbacks like this have characterized building projects throughout our department’s history. Consider these excerpts from the late Aaron Ihde’s history of the department (Chemistry as Viewed from Bascom’s Hill, Aaron J. Ihde, © 1990, Department of Chemistry, UW-Madison). The first refers to the 1890s (p 170), the second to a building completed in 1905 (pp 256-259).

When the Chemistry Laboratory on North Park Street was completed [in 1887] it had been considered a model building and was expected to meet the needs of the department far into the future. However, not only was university enrollment increasing rapidly but chemistry was now recognized as a central science, not only basic to other areas of biological and physical science but to applied fields such as medicine, agriculture, and engineering. ¼enrollments were increasing rapidly. It became necessary to stagger laboratory periods¼

Construction of the building, on University Avenue at the bottom of the south side of University Hill [where Chamberlin Hall now resides], began in the spring of 1905 with the expectation it would be finished for the opening of classes in the fall. ¼ Plans for a steel framework were abandoned; timber was used instead. The available timber was not well seasoned and substantial shrinkage and cracking took place, even before the building was completed; it continued to shrink for years. ¼ By late summer it became obvious that construction would not be completed before November. The worst problems were: 1) the large lecture hall was still far from ready to have seats installed; 2) the wooden stairways had been torn out [because they were a fire hazard] but the metal replacements were not ready for installation.

In fall 1905 some chemistry faculty and students climbed ladders to reach their classrooms. Labs that were supposed to be equipped with gas and water were not—alcohol burners were used instead, and water was delivered in pails. Our current situation is unfortunate, but greater vicissitudes have been encountered and overcome in the past.

New Tower

The outside of the new tower is now complete. Window washers have cleaned the glass. Workers have planted trees and shrubs to complete the landscaping. The new sidewalk is in place, the bicycle lane along University Avenue has been restored, and a multitude of bike racks is in place on three sides of the building. By the end of this week traffic lanes along University Avenue will be back to their normal positions. The view of the new tower from the rooftop of Chamberlin Hall looks great.

On the left, the exterior of the new tower looks great, as seen here from the rooftop of Chamberlin Hall across University Ave. On the right, a window washer does final cleaning of the exterior of the tower.

Inside the new tower, laboratories have been finished, with only a few final touches to be made. The design team has been through the labs, identifying items that do not meet specifications and require remediation. Fume hoods and other lab facilities are being tested to make certain laboratory work can be done safely. Controls for projectors, screens, lights, and other classroom features are in place. Many of those who will teach in the new building have had tours to see the spaces they will move into. Workers have installed art works along two corridors in the basement and sub-basement, now that there is little possibility of the art’s being damaged by construction activities. Once the elevator pressurization problem has been overcome, we will have a great new instructional facility.

On the left, photos of flame tests adorn a corridor wall in the sub-basement of the new tower. On the right, workers use a dummy to test a fume hood for proper ventilation in an organic teaching laboratory.

Daniels Three-day Exhaust Interruptions

The series of rolling three-day shutdowns of fume hoods in the Daniels wing that is the final step in the heart-lung transplant to improve ventilation in the Mathews and Daniels wings continues. Here are the shutdowns scheduled for the next three weeks. If necessary, email notices may supersede this schedule.

Shutdown #7 – Tue June 29 – Thu July 1 This shutdown affects these rooms:
7305, 7315, 7317, 7319, 7321, 7321A, 7324, 7325, 7369 – South 1/3, 7371, 8305F, 8305G, 8305H, B310, B386, B389, 1322, 1371E, 1389, 2308, 2384, 2389, 3377, 3379, 4377, 4377A, 4379, 5376, 5379, 6377, 6379, 7377, 7379, 8377A, 8379, 9321, 9325, 9327, 9379

Shutdown #8 – Tue July 6 – Thu July 8 This shutdown affects these rooms:
S346A, 9371, 3375, 4301, 4309 ,4369, 4371, 6305, 6307, 6309, 6300G – Stair well, 5326, 5361 – South 1/3, 5365, 5371, 5373 – East Half, 7307, 8305D, 8305E

Shutdown #9 – Tue July 13 – Thu July 15 This shutdown affects these rooms:
4309A, 4313, 4317, 4319, 4319A, 4323, 4323A, 4323B, 5303,5307, 5307A, 5322, 5322A, 3301, 3301A, 3305, 3309, 3309A, 3309B, 3317, 3321, 3325, 3326

Shutdowns occur each week, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Because of the way the fume hoods are connected to the existing exhaust system, the schedule cannot align nicely with research groups or with floors in the building, so it is essential that everyone consult the schedule to find out when your lab must shut down. Labs need to be ready by 6:00 am on Tuesday morning for the fume hood shutdown in each area.

It is extremely important that you adhere to the shutdown schedule and shutdown protocol because construction workers will be exposed to open exhaust ducts and your fume hood cannot protect you or your lab mates during the period that it is disconnected from the exhaust fans.

Please follow these directions for preparing your lab:

  1. Ensure that there are no active experiments.
  2. Close and cap all chemical containers.
  3. It is not necessary to turn off or cover equipment.
  4. Construction workers will not need to work in your laboratory; all construction work will occur on the floor 9 mezzanine.
  5. Staff from UW Safety Department and from chemistry facilities committee will spot-check preparations and compliance.

It will not be necessary to vacate the Daniels building during these shutdowns. The supply of fresh, tempered air will not be affected, and most of the building’s exhaust systems will be operating at any given time. The labs where the fume hoods are shut down should not be used, but research may continue in labs where fume hoods are not shut down. Student and faculty offices are essentially unaffected (regardless of specific detail shown on the maps) and may continue to be used.

In the Daniels wing, only exhaust from the designated labs will be shut down; other utilities (electrical service, process cooling water, nitrogen) will operate normally. In the Mathews wing, if your fume hood goes into alarm, please do two things immediately:

  1. Stop all experimentation in your fume hood; close and cap all containers.
  2. Notify Jeff Nielsen of the room number and fume hood location where the problem exists. 

 The Shain wing will not be affected by these exhaust interruptions.

Surplus Equipment and Glassware

When we move into our new facilities, the general chemistry program will change the way it handles laboratory equipment for students. This change, together with inventories of storerooms in preparation for moving, has identified a large quantity of surplus equipment and glassware.

We are making available to a wider constituency surplus equipment and glassware that is not suitable for redistribution through the UW-Madison’s SWAP program. To avoid just trashing this surplus, the facilities committee has notified public high schools and other UW-System campuses that it is available. During the next several weeks, you may see people in the building who are unfamiliar with our facility and are moving surplus equipment to their vehicles at the loading dock. If you know teachers in Wisconsin public institutions who might be able to use some of the surplus equipment, please contact John Moore, who will see that they are notified about the surplus distribution program. After we move into the new tower—from early October until the end of the year—surplus equipment and glassware will again be available for pick-up, so there is plenty of time for those who might use it to come and get it.

We thank Kenny Lehman of Miron Construction for the photos used in this newsletter issue.

This information is up to date as of Monday morning. Email bulletins will be provided as needed.

John Moore and Bob McMahon