Chemistry Annex reopens in time for spring semester classes


Jessica Jutzi

The Chemistry Annex is a newly renovated building that started construction in 2014 and is now open this 2017 Spring semester.

By Michael Semaca, Staff Writer

Classes will be held in an additional building this semester, as the University’s Chemistry Annex is ready for students for the first time since renovations began in 2014.

The Chemistry Annex was built in 1930 and adds 39,000 square feet to the Chemistry department’s existing facilities in Noyes Laboratory. The Annex has hardly been updated since its initial construction before undergoing renovation, said Christian Ray, the director of General Chemistry at the University.

“In the Chem Annex, a lot of (laboratory spaces) were the original labs, so many of them really hadn’t been touched in 60 or 70 years,” Ray said. “It wasn’t a safety issue, but we wanted to improve the experience the students have and actually give them a modern lab experience.”

The improvements to the lab spaces were the primary goal of the renovation, Ray said. They also implemented better ADA access for disabled students, overhauled the lecture hall and addressed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design national standards. The building now complies with national environmental design specifications.

“It’s a much more efficient building,” Ray said. “There was a lot of work put in making sure it was energy efficient, with new windows, new heating and cooling systems, and things like that.”

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The renovation required the chemistry department to move all of its existing facilities out of the Annex and consolidate it into Noyes Laboratory for the duration of the project. Though considering the move relatively painless, Ray said the department is excited to be back in the Annex.

Chemistry professors contributed to the build’s design, Ray said. Ray and other professors were pleased with their level of input. They worked closely with architects on campus to design the building.

“They took all of us that would be using the building quite a bit, and had us sit down with the architects and just say, ‘OK, what do you really want? Here’s the ideas we have, what do you think about that? How does this fit with how you teach your classes?’” Ray said.

Renovations like this are part of the University’s Instructional Space Improvement Initiative, said Steve Breitweiser, the manager of communications & external relations at the University’s facility & services department.

The initiative, a $70 million project started in 2012, is designed to benefit over an estimated 9,000 students that use the renovated facilities.

“Major renovations to campus facilities are vital to meeting the university’s strategic goals,” Breitweiser said. “Classroom and laboratory modernizations, accessibility improvements, life-safety upgrades, enhancements to building mechanical systems and associated benefits to energy conservation efforts are just a few examples of impact provided.”

Breitweiser said the Chemistry Annex’s renovation cost $24 million of the initiative’s budget. Both institutional money and a student fee, the academic facilities maintenance fund assessment fee, paid for the costs. All University students pay for the fee, which raises over $20 million per year for maintenance projects on campus.

The Chemistry Annex is just one of a handful of buildings on the Main Quad with planned renovations. The Natural History Building is currently undergoing a $76.4 million renovation of its own which started in 2014.

Breitweiser said the University is also looking into renovating a few more buildings as well. In 2011, a feasibility studies for potential renovations at both Altgeld and Illini Hall were conducted.

“The goal of the study was to investigate the means by which the University can restore Altgeld and Illini Halls to a level consistent with a world class academic enterprise based upon programmatic requirements,” he said.

Ray said the entire chemistry department is excited to start hosting classes in the Chemistry Annex once again.

“We’re all really happy with what’s happened,” Ray said.

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