Chem Annex renovations continue as part of $80 million campuswide initiative

Students walking on the Quad may have noticed construction fences wrapped around various buildings. This construction is a part of a five-year, $80 million project to upgrade technology and infrastructure within University labs and classrooms.

The Instructional Space Improvement initiative, which began in January 2012, will update 125 classrooms in 18 different buildings on campus. So far, 113 classrooms have been modernized.

Funding for the initiative comes from the Office of the Provost, the Academic Facilities Maintenance Fund Assessment, various University departments and the Library IT fees.

According to the Facilities and Services website, “over 9,000 students and 125 faculty members per classroom hour will benefit from more comfortable and energy efficient-learning environments.”

The most recent building located on the Quad undergoing total renovation is the Chemistry Annex. The annex renovations consist of overall upgrades, as well as a 9,600-square-foot addition to the southeast corner, according to Steven Breitwieser, Facilities and Services spokesman.

“When you look around everything is taking on a new shape and moving forward because of all these great projects that are out there on a constant basis,” Breitwieser said.

According to a report on the annex, the laboratory contained aged and inefficient light fixtures and deteriorated ceiling and wall finishes.

Katie Peck, sophomore in Engineering, hopes the upgrades will alleviate student concerns about using the outdated facilities.

She said compared to other buildings on campus, the Chemistry Annex “was severely lacking.”

However, Peck said she is accustomed to the “much more shiny” lab spaces of Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, where she worked this past summer.

Other renovation projects have occurred in Loomis Laboratory, Davenport Hall, the English Building, the Armory and Foellinger Auditorium.

As part of the improvement initiative, last summer, Facilities and Services replaced balcony seats in Foellinger Auditorium, which were 78 years old.

Other renovation efforts on the quad include the nearly finished construction of the Lincoln Hall Gateway Arch, which was a gift from the class of 1913.

The restoration efforts consisted of dismantling the brick and stonework, cleaning the bricks and then rebuilding the walls.

Last month, while undergoing renovations, workers discovered a 100-year-old time capsule containing business cards, some with handwritten names on them, a 1913 Lincoln head wheat penny, an 1894 Native American head wheat penny and a handwritten tag with the name of the locksmith who crafted the box, Vern Benson.

Breitwieser said substantial progress will be made on the arch by the end of February.

“The way the campus is now is going to be a different experience than the way it was 10 years ago, (or) maybe 20 years ago,” Breitwieser said. “It’s always constantly evolving.”

Mason can be reached at [email protected].