Under construction: Science buildings to undergo renovations starting in 2016

For Concordia students, the rumors about a renovation to the Jones and Ivers science buildings are nothing new. In fact, some have stopped speculating and have perhaps given up hope for a shiny new science building.

Hope is not lost, as the administration has been talking about a renovation for years, and Concordia has formed a timeline to have all classes out of the buildings by this time next year to begin construction – but there is still a need for approval from the board of regents before anything can happen.

Discussions about renovating the Jones and Ivers have been going on for many years, even before President Craft became president. In 2008, the college hired a firm to assess the state of the building and how to. The conclusion: some major changes needed to occur.

Biology Professor Dr. Ellen Aho serves on the committee working on the renovation project. She pointed out the necessity for Concordia to update its science buildings.

“Many of the facilities are not up to current code standards, not matching the type of teaching we like to do,” Aho said.

Dr. Eric Eliason, Dean of the College, said that the science renovation is part of a bigger campus plan to update the buildings around campus – a plan that helped to bring about the Offut School of Business.

“(We) try to think through the long term campus needs and projects,” Eliason said.

Aho said Concordia considers Ivers/Jones the next project in the plan because of the intense need for an update. The current labs were not built to support the kind of technology they use now.

“Our labs are outdated, our lecture halls are outdated, it’s all just really outdated,” said Grant Curtis ’17, a nursing major.

With the amount of research-based learning going on in the sciences, the current building cannot support some of the needs of the science department.

Dr. Darin Ulness, Chair of the Division of Sciences and Mathematics talked about the main objective of the project and what kind of outcome Concordia hopes to see from this renovation, especially in regards to the use of labs as a teaching and collaboration space.

“The primary goal is to focus on the education of the students in a way that’s more consistent with modern science, which is integrative learning experience, the ability to see science in motion,” Ulness said.

This fits hand-in-hand with the main priorities of the project, Aho said. These priorities include promoting academic learning both in the classrooms and the labs, promoting social responsibility – especially in regards to sustainability – and increasing collaboration and interdisciplinary interactions.

Part of Concordia’s new approach to academic learning in the classrooms and labs includes the idea of integration, rather than separation, said Eliason.

After the renovation, the buildings will have a much more open atmosphere, much like the Offut School of Business. “The new design will put science at Concordia on display”, said Dr. Larry Papenfuss of Concordia’s Advancement Office. “The openness will also allow students to view each other’s work and learning, adding to the idea of integrative learning.”

“You can get some instrumentation that is designed for having lots of students on them and learning from them,” Ulness said. “We’re trying even more to get students involved in what research is kind of like.”

Following recent efforts to become a more sustainability campus, Concordia is working closely with Einhorn Yaffee Prescott, an architecture firm out of Boston, MA, known for their sustainable designs.

Aho said EYP will take a close look at the heating and cooling systems going into the new building. Installing heat-recovery systems would decrease the amount of energy needed to heat, cool, and move air throughout the buildings.

In regards to when this project is going to start, Concordia is working with a timeline that aims to have the project completed and classes back in Ivers and Jones by the fall of 2017.

“We’re on a very aggressive timeline that would look at us breaking ground in fall of 2016,” Papenfuss said. “But to do that, it calls for us having a lot of stuff done before that.”

Concordia will need to move classes, labs, and offices to other campus locations during the renovation. Those in charge of the project are hoping to start moving out of Ivers and Jones this summer, have some classes out this fall, and be completely out of the buildings one year from now, Aho said.

“The biggest hurdle is really what are we going to do with the wet laboratories,” Ulness said, referring to labs in need of specialized drainage and ventilation systems.

This problem is being addressed by taking advantage of another rather mysterious space on campus – the Normandy. What was once used as a part of dining services has turned into a rather forgotten area on campus, with most students oblivious to the vacant space above the Cobber Bookstore.

“These (temporary labs) will be quite Spartan, but they will meet all of our safety needs,” Ulness said.

Eliason said science classes will be moved to open classrooms in current buildings, including uncommon places such as Jones A/B in the Knutson Campus Center.

Classes will continue as normal to make sure current Concordia students can graduate on time, Eliason said.

In addition to figuring out the details of the transition period, one of the most obvious things that has to occur is making sure that the funding is available to make sure the project can happen.

The project has a budget of $45 million. Financially speaking, it’s cheaper for Concordia to begin the renovation from scratch instead of various updates.

“It would be tens of millions of dollars simply to update the physical systems, and very invasive to the building. The building needs to be ripped up to do that, and if it’s gonna be ripped up it should be put back together in a way that places it in line with current pedagogies and goals,” Eliason said.

Not only will the renovation be good for the students at Concordia, but it is also expected to increase the amount of interest in Concordia.

“The deeper investment in science is likely to be intriguing to people,” Eliason said. “We’re confident that investing in science is good for science and good for Concordia.”


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