Hemenway Laboratories open for student use

(Photo courtesy of Ellenzweig Architects)

By Alexandra Gomes

News Editor

By Julia Sarcinelli

News Editor

The new Hemenway Laboratories opened this semester with 16 new labs, and backfill work will begin in Hemenway Hall in January, 2016, according to Executive Vice President Dale Hamel.

The new addition, which totals 58,000 square feet, includes five levels consisting of eight biology labs and eight chemistry labs, said Hamel. It is part of a two-part construction project, which is separated into Contract 1 and Contract 2. He added that Contract 1 consisted of the completion of the new building and infrastructure updates, while implementation of Contract 2 will start sometime in January 2016 for repurposing labs and classrooms in Hemenway Hall.

The biology and chemistry departments will still have labs in Hemenway Hall for experiments, research and upper-division work.

As for new equipment, “Contract 1 has a total of $1.47 million in what we call FFEs – furniture, fixtures and equipment,” said Hamel. “That’s a combination of academic equipment, largely … but then there are some facilities and equipment, and obviously classroom furniture that are in there as well.”

The new equipment, which replaced old microscopes and other outdated materials, includes new ductless fume hoods. The hoods minimize the amount of chemicals vented outside into the environment, said Hamel.

“We actually now have the largest installation of, essentially, ductless fume hoods in the world,” said Hamel. “That’s a huge energy saver. … The other types of hoods basically take the conditioned air and it just goes out and then you bring in new air that you have to either heat or cool, so that’s a very significant feature of the building.”

Associate Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning Warren Fairbanks said the new science building also has “about one of every kind of HVAC [Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning] and electricity you can have” in a lab building.

“It’s a very sophisticated building, on par with a commercial-type lab building. … There’s no question about it – the students learning in these labs will have a very easy transition to commercial-type labs they would see at Genzyme,” said Fairbanks.

Although the final energy certification won’t be calculated until after the project is fully completed, both Fairbanks and Hamel said they are expecting the building to be LEED Silver Certified. According to the U.S. Green Building Council website usgbc.org, LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification is based on different categories that the building in question meets and earns points for, which then ranks it either LEED certified silver, gold or platinum.

Fairbanks said, “It is a lab building, so it does consume a lot of energy. … I can’t say it’s the most efficient building on campus, but as a lab building, I can say it is efficient.”

He added that the landscape, though it probably has a smaller total area than before, will include a time capsule created by SILD [Student Involvement and Leadership Development], multiple trees, Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA]-certified brick pathways and a memorial garden.

According to ada.gov, the act “prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, S tate and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.”

Contract 2 totals $987,000 in FFEs, Hamel added.

Hamel said the total cost of both contracts is $84 million, with $15.98 million being the responsibility of Framingham State and the rest being allocated from commonwealth, federal and miscellaneous funding, most notably a total of over $63 million from the State General Obligation Bond Allocation.

The science project began in 2007 when FSU’s strategic plan included identifying the most significant area of improvement on campus, which was determined to be a new facility for labs and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math [STEM] programs, according to Hamel.

The bond bill allocated 54.6 million to Framingham State for a 10-year spend down, he said.

Hamel said FSU administrators and trustees then decided to fund the study phase with school money, at a cost of $10 million, at which time it was determined that although it might be less expensive to build a new building separate from Hemenway Hall, an addition to Hemenway Hall and then backfilling the leftover space for new labs and other needs was the best and preferred option.

It was after the study phase, Hamel said, that the institution realized the cost for the option selected would be “significantly greater than the funds,” which came to a final cost of $84 million, a total of $30 million more than bond bill’s allocation of $54.6 million.

Phase 1 of the science project was early infrastructure and access work to the front of Hemenway Hall, which was completed with $1.1 million from federal funding and $3 million from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, according to Hamel.

Contract 1 was Phase 2 of the project, with infrastructure updates and the actual building of the Hemenway Laboratories with the $54 million from the State General Obligation Bond Allocation, said Hamel. He added, “We borrowed $10 million at the time of design and supplemented an additional $2 million, totaling $12 million we pay ourselves for annual debt service.”

Hamel said in December, FSU will make a bid to begin construction for Contract 2, or the backfill, “as early as January and continuing into the summer of 2016, with some of the nursing suite not being finished until December 2016.”

The backfill will be the repurposing of former biology and chemistry labs. They will be turned into labs and classrooms for food and nutrition, fashion and retailing, nursing and math, “and then some cosmetic upgrades, like corridor and common space renovations, and then a number of ADA compliance matters in specific classrooms,” said Hamel.

“Some old labs we’re converting into whole new spaces. If we’re keeping them, in some cases, we have to go back in and update it and make it ADA accessible – anything that … is against current code,” said Hamel, who added that landscaping and pathways in the back of the new addition were created in compliance to ADA accommodations.

The new nursing suite, which will be a result of the backfill, is “a great project” that adds new labs with hospital beds, observation areas, three mock hospital rooms and classrooms that will take up almost all of the third floor of Hemenway Hall, said Hamel. He added the current nursing department is “in a much smaller” space in the basement of Dwight Hall and is “probably easily less than half this size.”

Fairbanks said work on the backfill will be “selective” throughout Hemenway and Hemenway Annex during the spring 2016 semester and will include work replacing heating, redoing floors and building new lecture halls.

“Major work will happen in the summer and over breaks, and work that does go on over the academic year will be in confined areas of the building, very contained,” said Fairbanks.

A major reason for the creation of this project, according to Hamel, was the increase in STEM majors and needs.

Hamel said over the past five years, undergraduate enrollment increased 22 percent, while enrollment for the STEM program has increased by 54 percent. The number of STEM graduates, which was at 19 percent five years ago, has increased to 23 percent with a “target” of 28 percent by 2018.

He said that although this is a project geared toward the sciences, all students will benefit. “You can see through the backfill we’re impacting a lot of other majors on campus as well. So I would say this is hopefully a positive impact on every single student that goes through the University.”

President F. Javier Cevallos also said the project will help all students, and that working on a new building geared toward the STEM programs “is not abandoning” the other majors on campus.

“Every building has a life cycle. In some fields, life-cycle renovations could mean just painting the walls, but in the world that we live in today, with technology moving so fast, renovation includes a whole overhaul of the infrastructure in terms of technology and in terms of the HVAC, the windows and the lights,” said Cevallos. “Plus, I think that it’s nice to have facilities that look good, that look clean and nice.

“I think that one of the dangers when we talk about STEM is everybody thinking, ‘Well, what is going to happen to business, education, the humanities and social sciences?’ We will continue with them. The idea is not to take away from any of those other programs, but just to focus just a little more on the science … because there’s such a need in Massachusetts for [science] jobs,” said Cevallos, adding that society needs STEM workers along with poets, musicians, business people and other professionals to be successful.

Margaret Carroll, dean of STEM, said the new laboratories are “well designed for students to be able to work together and really collaborate on their labs and on their research projects. It really provides a good space for people to work.”

Carroll said there is still a lot of “unpacking” to do. “If you can imagine moving into a house that is ten times the size of a regular house and all you’re doing is unpacking the kitchen – it’s kind of crazy. There’s a lot going on, but things are going well so far.”

She said she believes the building is “beautiful” and “a wonderful facility.” She added that she is “thrilled” by how many students are using the seating areas of the building to hang out and study.

Fred Ritvö, a senior, said the building “certainly gives us a really modern space on campus to hang out in. … I like how open it is, but it’s also quiet.”

Maria Motta, a junior, described the new building as having “a more college feel.” She added that “it’s helping bring the science community on campus together with a common place to meet.”

Senior Susan Siraco said she thinks the labs are “beautiful” and “the look and feel is much bigger. Some study areas have white boards next to them, which really helps to show examples, and the amount of space reserved for study groups makes it much easier to meet in large groups.”

Chemistry professor Catherine Dignam described the new laboratories as “very bright and airy.” She added, “The benches where students sit, called ‘pods,’ are well suited to collaborative work, and all seats in the new labs have a perfect view of the projection screen and white boards.”

Dignam said it is “too early to say whether it is easier to teach in the new science building.  So far, things do seem to be going very well in the new laboratories.”

Sarah Pilkenton, chair of the chemistry department, has been teaching in the new laboratories for three weeks. She said she is “happy” with the room she is teaching in, because she can give a pre-lab lecture in the same room. “I have board space to write on and a projector … I could not do this in the old instrument room in the Hemenway Annex.  I would have to give the pre-lab lecture in a separate room.  My students can now sit down and work through their data in the lab.  They were not able to do this in the old instrument lab because of space.”

Pilkenton added, “The one complaint that I have about the new building is that the entrance doors seem to lock at random, so you cannot always enter the Hemenway complex through the main doors to the Hemenway Laboratory portion of the building.”

According to Aline Davis, chair of the biology department, there are a couple of laboratories that are not complete, but the building is “pretty close” to being all set. This is due to large equipment not being set up yet.

Davis said all labs are equipped with an integrated projection system along with updated benches.

“They’re bigger, they’re brighter, the equipment is nicer,” said Davis. “We had weight problems in [Hemenway] that due to the way the floors were set up, we couldn’t put certain pieces of heavy equipment in certain locations. We don’t have that problem in the new building.”

Davis said she is “thrilled” about the new laboratories. “We have students who have been trying to get an up-to-date modern biology degree in a not up-to-date place. … To have the new space, to have the capability to introduce some new equipment, to the whole program – to the nutrition program, to the chemistry program – its just going to make such a difference to the faculty’s energy, to the students’ energy.”

She added, “You have new stuff. It’s fun to play with.”

Cynthia Imboywa, a senior, said she has completed her lab requirements. However, she wished she had been able to take them in the new building.

Sharlene Peña, a junior, said, “It seems like it was an update that needed to happen a long time ago.”

She added, “I feel like now, it seems safer because we have to go under the hoods in order to do any lab procedures, so that is comforting. There are more instruments. … Everything’s there that you need.”

Dylan Korzeniowski, a sophomore, said since he is an English major, he will not use the new laboratories much, but “it’s a lot better than having construction constantly droning on on campus.”

Demolition for the backfill will start in the spring semester and go into the summer, according to Hamel, who added he recognizes that building in the center of campus was disruptive.

“I think there is a benefit of building what is now the most significant building on campus in the center of campus, but it was certainly disruptive over that period. So we appreciate the patience of faculty, staff and students while we’re doing that and recognize that this upcoming year, we’re asking them to be patient again, so I know there’s some construction fatigue. … We’re not over the hump yet in terms of large capital projects that are occurring while we’re continuing to run the academic operation here. … So hang in there one more year.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*