URBANA – Outdated chemistry labs with no central air-conditioning and insufficient electrical systems have hurt efforts to recruit faculty in biochemistry, says Charles Miller, director of the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, which includes the Department of Biochemistry.
"It's almost impossible to recruit in competition with institutions with good, new space," said Miller, who believes the University of Illinois has lost some potential faculty members because of the condition of the labs in Roger Adams Laboratory.
"When we try to bring people in and show people space that has essentially been untouched for 50 to 60 years, we can't be competitive," Miller said. "It's really important to get these kinds of infrastructure things taken care of, so when we bring prospective faculty members in and show them space, they don't gag."
A major renovation planned for the building, at 600 S. Mathews Ave., U., will do that. The UI Board of Trustees will vote on whether to approve the $35 million, multiphase remodeling project when it meets Thursday in Springfield.
Roger Adams Lab dates to the 1950s and is used by both the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the School of Chemical Sciences. The Department of Biochemistry occupies most of the area being remodeled.
Dan Ozier, director of facilities and operations for the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the School of Integrative Biology, called the condition of the lab space "poor."
"There is no central air-conditioning, for example, so cooling is largely by window air-conditioning units, of which there are many, and that's problematic when we're trying to manage research operations," Ozier said. "Many of the research activities that go on involve either biological or chemical activities that are sensitive to temperature. If we can't control the temperature, it's another variable that messes with the research work."
Ozier and Miller said much of the equipment used, including ultralow temperature freezers to store samples, generates a lot of heat, which is hard on the equipment unless it can be cooled efficiently, and uncomfortable for the researchers. Ozier said electrical and telecommunications systems need updating as well, and the labs need general improvements such as painting.
Ozier said the planned remodeling calls for five different phases of work, which will each take at least 1 to 2 years.
The first phase will remodel almost 19,000 square feet, including 2,200 square feet of lab space, on the third floor of the building and create lab and office space for new faculty, as well as retrofitting mechanical systems and some life safety work. It will cost $7.6 million.
"There has been piecemeal remodeling in the building, but it's usually been a lab at a time," Miller said. "We're hoping this will allow us to get all of the third floor taken care of and to deal with the central air issue."
The remodeling also includes a 13,400-square-foot chemistry lab complex renovation for two new faculty hires who will be at the UI in 2006. The Hartwig Lab Renovation Project will cost $5.3 million.
The UI continually needs to update labs to keep up with the scientists using them and their research interests, said Campus Architect Clif Carey. As it does so, it is taking a different approach to remodeling in recent years.
"As we improve space within the building to enable research, we understand we need to look at the building holistically and look at the infrastructure and improve that," Carey said. "What we are trying to do is plan building renovations and remodeling so they are considerate of future work that needs to get done."
Much of the work in the first phase of the Roger Adams Lab project will be improving the ventilation system, which will support future phases of the project.
The trustees will vote on awarding a $334,200 contract for an architect/engineer for the Hartwig Lab Renovation Project to Harley Ellis of Chicago.
Board will consider other capital projects
SPRINGFIELD – In addition to a major remodel of Roger Adams Laboratory, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees will consider several other capital projects at its Thursday meeting in Springfield:
– Expansion of Atkins Tennis Center and Eichelberger Field. The $5.4 million project will add 12 outdoor tennis courts, two team locker rooms, a training room, administrative offices, a retail sales area, storage and mechanical space and a new parking lot to the east of the tennis center. The softball fields will get a new building for public restrooms, press box, ticket sales and concessions. Plans also call for a home team locker room. The two areas will share a new parking lot.
The board will vote on whether to approve the project and on awarding a $354,735 contract to Bailey Edward Design, Champaign/Chicago, to serve as architect/engineer. The money for the project will come from gift funds and the operating budget of the Urbana campus.
– Conference center at the Research Park. Trustees will vote on awarding a $686,200 contract for design work through construction to architect/engineer RATIO Architects, Inc. of Indianapolis.
The $9 million conference center will be at the southeast corner of St. Mary's Road and First Street, just north of Assembly Hall, and next to a hotel/restaurant being built by developer Peter Fox.
– Student dining and residential services building. Trustees will vote on hiring Booth Hansen of Chicago as architect/engineer, for $2.23 million, for design of a new student dining/residential services building for Peabody Drive and Gregory Drive residence halls, known as the six-pack.
The project includes building a new residence hall for disabled students. The first phase, which will cost $75.7 million, will include the demolition of the Illini Orange facility, the current dining halls and Weston residence hall.
– The new College of Business building. The board will consider amending an agreement with Phillips Swager & Associates of Peoria, with Cesar Pelli & Associates, to provide interior design services for the new College of Business building for an additional fee of $108,500.
Trustees have already approved a contract of $1.455 million for design development and $1.633 million for construction documents, and $872,500 for construction administration.
The $62 million, 154,000-square-foot building will be at the corner of Sixth Street and Gregory Drive. It will house the MBA program, the Accountancy Program and undergraduate affairs.