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Big science project: SIUE moves to next phase

SciLab2013    EDWARDSVILLE — Future scientists and others are taking advantage of the science that permeates the newest building on the SIUE campus, Bill Retzlaff says. And more moves are on the way.
    The associate dean of arts and sciences and chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, Environmental Sciences Program said both faculty and students are enormously pleased with the new Science Lab Building West, a $52 million project formally christened Nov. 4.
    Two departments, chemistry and biological sciences, and one program, environmental sciences, have moved into Science Lab Building West.
    The other Science Building curriculum, the mathematics and statistics department, physics department and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, will soon be temporarily moved from what is the old Science Building, which is to be gutted and remodeled for an additional $30 million.
    The revamped building will eventually be called Science Lab Building East. Both buildings comprise what is jointly known as the SIUE Science Building Complex.
    “My responsibility is to get physics, math and the STEM center out of the old building before Christmas so that in January the old building will be empty except for two large classrooms,” Retzlaff said. “Hopefully in two years we can move the students back in.”
    Mathematics and STEM students will be moved into vacated space in the Vadalabene Center on campus. Physics will be relocated into Alumni Hall. The affected Vadalabene staff and offices have already permanently relocated into the Lukas Athletic Annex, which opened last year.
    The shifts are part of a phased move among different buildings on campus, as part of a 15-year remodeling plan.
    Of the science divisions affected by the moves, math is the largest: Some 15,000 to 16,000 credit hours per year are serviced by the math program, which affects the majority of the student body.
     The new West building incorporates laboratories for faculty and student research initiatives in a state-of-the-art learning environment.
    “I’ve had great success working with my students in the last 14 years, but the opportunity to work with them in world-class, safe facilities is really fantastic,” said Retzlaff, a biology professor.
    The new building features what the university touts as the newest renewable power source on campus — a 30-kilowatt solar array. The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation provided a $103,000 grant for support to reach a goal of providing a portion of the new building’s electricity via solar.
    The West building is designed for “hands-on scholarship,” Retzlaff said. “There are things we couldn’t do in the old building,” which was opened in 1966.
    For instance, there were microscopes scattered throughout the old building. Coordinated use of them was a logistical challenge. The new building has its own microscopy suite with a half-million dollars in equipment. The microscopy suite includes a confocal microscope for high resolution imaging along with two additional fluorescent microscopes. This enables students to construct 3D images of cells and record live cellular processes in a room solely dedicated to imaging cells and organisms.
    Some $3.3 million of the $52 million for the new building is for equipment. Approximately $1.4 million of the $30 million renovation job is for equipment.
    The new building also has a series of temperature-controlled rooms, one a cold room, another a warm room for culturing different organisms. Previously those were on different floors. Now they share floors and are adjacent to teaching labs.
    “My lab has a student workplace. Students can work corroboratively, outside the research lab but adjacent to it,” he said.
    The West building has more than 70 hood-intensive teaching and research labs; faculty offices; academic computing; and a vivarium, an area for keeping and raising animals or plants for observation and research.
    The contractors on the new building were: Williams Brothers Inc., Pyramid Electric, Amsco Mechanical, Belleville Mechanical, Automatic Fire Sprinklers and Modern Business Interiors.
    The planned remodel of the old building has not yet been bid. The $30 million for the renovation is part of the original funding package approved by the Illinois Legislature in 2009.
    “The governor came here earlier this semester and announced the sale of bonds for the renovation. That’s why we’re moving folks out,” Retzlaff said. “We will completely gut the building in phases, make new offices, new teaching spaces, and new research spaces for physics, math and STEM, as well as renovate seven classrooms that are campus classrooms that other (school) units use. And there will be some ‘swing space’ in there to accommodate folks as they renovate other buildings.”
    Retzlaff said excitement is palpable among faculty, who believe that SIUE is going to be increasingly recognized because of the changes.
    “When I came here in 1999, I moved into an office in the old Science Building, the 14th member of the biology faculty. Today, there are 24 faculty in biological sciences,” he said.
    He also notes that the original building housed engineering students, who now have their own building and which is also scheduled for an addition this year.
    In a formal statement at the christening ceremony, SIU President Glenn Poshard commented on the work that went into the project and the reasons for it. The concept was first presented to the Illinois Capital Development Board in 1999.
     “The SIUE Science Building Complex project has been worked on at the state level for many, many years by both current and former state legislators, and many others in this community,” Poshard said. “Our elected officials, university leaders, business and labor leaders, and alums never gave up on this project, because they have long understood and appreciated the prosperity that this university brings to Southwestern Illinois.”
    He added: “For some time now, the lack of a new science building has been an impediment to the growth of this university and, today, we can say that hurdle has been cleared.”
    Regarding the solar power array, the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation collaborated with the university, Illinois Capital Development Board, Hastings & Chivetta architects, BRiC Partnership engineers and contractor JF Electric Inc., to make the $230,000 equipment functional.
    The array’s electrical output is displayed on video monitors in the building, which makes for a continuing demonstration of solar power’s applications.
    Other Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) features include use of non-heat absorbing roofing materials; low water use plumbing fixtures; high efficiency insulating materials; collection and use of recyclable materials; sun shades on the south and west facing windows; high efficiency window glazing; lighting and air conditioning occupancy sensors, and active teaching displays showing building energy use.

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