New Science Building opens for fall semester

More than three years after the initial ground breaking for SIUE’s new, $52 million Science Building – equipped with upgraded labs, additional space and energy efficient components – the building is complete and ready for student, staff and faculty use.

SIUE students Katie Bennett and Dallas Wright conduct experiments at chemistry professor Chin-Chuan Wei's research lab, also known as the Sigma Aldridge Biochemistry Instruction Lab.

The construction process, which was funded by the Illinois State Capital Development Board as part of Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Works Project, began in September 2010.

Science professors are now able to teach in a “modern science facility” that will provide “new and unique opportunities” for students and faculty, according to associate dean and biological sciences professor Bill Retzlaff.

“Teaching in a new and modern science facility is going to allow our students and faculty to interact closely,” Retzlaff said.

Biological sciences, chemistry and environmental sciences courses will be held in the new Science Building beginning this semester. The new Science Building, according to information provided by Retzlaff, includes:

  • 20 new teaching labs.
  • 49 research labs.
  • 65 faculty offices.
  • Vivarium (small animals) and aquaria (small aquatic) rooms.

Biological sciences department chair David Duvernell said the additional rooms will allow for greater flexibility in scheduling lab sections and “the opportunity to offer more lab courses.”
The old Science Building, according to Duvernell, presented “many challenges that the new building will solve.”

“In some ways, the old building was literally falling down around us,” Duvernell said. “Roof leaks were a serious problem. They compromised scientific research and they even occasionally forced lab classes to be canceled.”

Retzlaff said space in the old Science Building was restrictive and “didn’t permit interaction between students and faculty,” but the new building will remedy that issue.

“The new building is going to allow us to work in the modern lab facility and work with more students in the research labs,” Retzlaff said.

Individual class sizes will not increase, according to Retzlaff, but the number of lab sections offered will.

The old Science Building, according to Retzlaff, will be closed in January. Retzlaff said “if all goes as planned” physics, math and the STEM Center, or Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Research, Education and Outreach, will be moved out of the old Science Building by the end of December. However, because renovation to the old Science Building is state-funded, Retzlaff could not say when renovations will begin.

Because the new Science Building will not provide new, non-lab classrooms and lecture halls, professors “look forward to completion of the renovation of the old Science Building to provide improvements in these facilities,” according to Duvernell.

Academic features in the new Science Building include a full-scale microscope room and instrument rooms for chemistry, environmental sciences and biological sciences. Retzlaff said students will have more access to such instruments and new equipment that was purchased with the building funds.

The new Science Building is important for SIUE’s science departments because, according to Duvernell, chemistry and biological sciences are the foundation for “a strong science program on any campus.”

“They provide support for many other programs on campus,” Duvernell said. “We can’t be strong in sciences and engineering if we do not have strong chemistry and biological sciences programs.”

The new Science Building is also Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certified, according to information provided by Retzlaff. The certification is at the silver level, which is “the second level awarded for green sustainable buildings,” according to information provided by Retzlaff.

LEED certification was bestowed upon the building because of its low-flow water fixtures, a green roof on the third-floor balcony and solar panels on the roof, among other items.

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