The University of Rhode Island’s latest construction project is right on schedule, according to Dr. Bill Euler, Chemistry Department chair.
“It’s been going along quite well,” he said.
The Center for Chemical and Forensic Science is set to open to students in the fall of 2016. Euler projects that “[faculty] occupancy will occur in the spring of 2016. That summer, we’ll move equipment, and then classes will start,” said Euler.
Despite a couple minor challenges, members on the building’s project team are confident the building will be completed on time.
Rhode Island voters passed a $61 million bond issue which granted state funding for the project in 2010. After a three year delay, construction started this past January. Initially, the building was set to be completed in December 2015. For various site related reasons, the deadline was pushed back a month later.
Director of the Office of Capital Projects Paul DePace is not worried about the change.
“A one month delay is not unusual, we may finish earlier than that,” he said. “A building this size always has issues.”
DePace said the project was originally over budget. His team focused on the base project built with room to expand as the program changes over the years. The plan involved considerable expansion space. Contractor bids were larger than what was in their budget, he said, so they decided to break up the expansion pieces and make them alternate projects that could be worked on gradually over the years.
Ryan Carrillo, the University’s interim architect said there was a small complication regarding the parking lots near Chaffee Hall.
“When we went to dig up the Chaffee parking lot, we found another parking lot below the existing parking lot,” he said, adding that “in the construction industry, it’s typical. As you unearth things you find other things.”
The new building is “a signature building” said DePace. It will come equipped with a new ventilation system, better heating and cooling capacity and newer classroom and research tools. The 135,000-square-foot building will be fit to accommodate 7,000 students who take a chemistry course annually, according to a press release published by URI this past May.
Compared to the current chemistry facilities in Pastore Hall, the new Center will “nearly triple the amount of space for teaching labs and nearly double the space for research labs” as stated in the University’s press release. Euler feels Pastore Hall, built in 1953 to accommodate 800 students, does not fit the demand or safety regulations for modern chemistry students need.
“[We can do] more modern experiments in the new building, as opposed to safer experiments in Pastore which are sometimes are a little older,” Euler said. Currently, chemistry professors teaching in Pastore “don’t demonstrate modern technology as much as we would like. We want to update experiments that are a little more modern.”
Winnie Brownell, Dean of College of Arts and Sciences, is enthusiastic about the Center’s progress.
“It’s absolutely thrilling,” she said. “I’m particularly excited because it will expand our capacity for students,” in various chemistry fields and STEM programs and will provide “specialized spaces in order to conduct research” on campus.
If everything goes to plan within the next year or so, Euler predicts a ribbon cutting ceremony in September 2016.
“It’s going to be exciting. It’s a great new facility for hiring new faculty and recruiting new students. Now we are built to deliver a much improved curriculum with the facility,” Euler said. “It’s a wonderful time.”