The Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences building has been in the works for several years now, but students will be able to see the completed building this March.

The project began in November of 2010, when Rhode Island voters approved a $61 million bond issue to the University of Rhode Island to construct a new chemistry building. The proposed building would allow students access to the equipment, facilities and classes needed to better develop an understanding of modernized chemistry.

The official physical groundbreaking on the project was held four years later in January of 2014 and the ceremonial groundbreaking took place in May of 2014.

Initially there were some delays in the project that stalled construction. One issue was the building commissioner, who held back the production when he was out sick for an extended period. Also, it was not apparent at first that the university had to sign a Project Labor Agreement to ensure that only union workers would be hired and that the unions could not strike during the duration of the project. After all of the paperwork was filed the project resumed as planned.

According to Dr. Bill Euler, chairman of the chemistry department, the expected completion date is March 1, 2016.  The chemistry department is slated to relocate to their new building during the summer. Classes will be held in the building beginning the fall 2016 semester.

When Pastore, the current chemistry building, was built in 1953 it was meant to accommodate 800 students. Once the new building is completed it will accommodate approximately 5,000 students, with space for 2,000 in the labs alone. Having more room in the labs and lecture halls allows the university to take in more students, which will ultimately eliminate the wait list for the college of chemistry. As projected, unless there is an influx of chemistry and chemical engineering majors, there will be more space in the building than the major’s current enrollment.

While initially projected to cost $68 million, the current estimated expense is approximately over $70 million. The construction alone was allocated $61 million by the state of Rhode Island in 2010, in addition to the $4.5 million from the state that went directly to architectural designs and planning committees. The rest of the funding was raised through donations made to the university by outside donors.

Substantial work has gone into making this building a state-of-the-art facility for learning modern chemistry and allowing students access to the highest quality equipment and research labs. Approximately $3 million has been donated for new scientific equipment alone. Shimadzu Corporation, a company specializing in manufacturing precision instruments, measuring instruments and medical equipment, has provided the university with fair prices so that they may fully equip the research and teaching labs with the appropriate high-end, research-level equipment necessary for teaching modern chemistry.

Although it is the newest building on campus, and stocked with some of the best equipment, the project did not always have as much publicity on campus as one might think. Euler remembered a story of how someone thought that all of the construction by White Hall was for a parking garage.

“When the students left in May of 2014 not a whole lot of visible work had been done so far, but over the summer holes were dug and footers put in and steel girders shot up,” Euler said. “There were no walls, just a lot of framework. A couple days before the start of the Fall 2014 semester I was in the Emporium in one of the eating establishments and talking to a worker when I mentioned how once all the students were back on campus there would be a lack of parking spaces. The worker said it shouldn’t be an issue because of the new parking garage they were putting up by White.”

A year later, there is no way anyone could mistake the new chemistry building with a parking garage. The project is nearing completion and the Chemistry department could not be more excited.  

The project also created more jobs for the state since first proposed in 2010. These jobs come in the form of construction, trades, plumbing, electrical, architecture, engineering, management, teaching and research.

“There are upwards of 100 people working in the building on any given day,” Euler said.