Thursday, October 23, 2008

Got a new science building? Want to tell me about it?

The science departments here are in a building phase. Chemistry got a new building a few years ago, biology is getting a new building right now... and just this morning, we learned that physics, engineering, and the geosciences have the go-ahead to start really planning a new building ourselves.

So now we want to know what cool things other institutions have done recently. If you know of a new science building (and especially a new geology, physics, and/or engineering building) from the past ten years, especially one that uses green building standards, make innovative pedagogy possible, or facilitates undergraduate research*, we'd like to talk to you (and maybe visit your building). (Has anyone taught with a Geowall, or learned with a Geowall? How about the new microscopy labs with digital cameras and computers, which make collaborative learning possible in optical mineralogy and petrology? Those are a few things that I know about, but I would like to know about what things are so new that I haven't heard about them, as well.)

You can contact me at my work e-mail (just google me - you'll find it) or at shearsensibility AT gmail DOT com.

*The president is interested in knowing what research universities do as well as knowing what undergrad institutions do. He wants to make sure we're thinking for the future, which is a good thing, since that's what planning's supposed to involve.


Ron Schott said...

I haven't got any firsthand info about it, but you should talk to someone in the Geology Department at Colgate University (my alma mater) because they just moved into a new building into which they had input regarding the design.

kurt said...

Congratulations on getting a new building!
We got a new science building a couple years ago. Among the many lessons I learned:

* really insist on expansion to accommodate future growth - there will be forces that will argue against this in the name of cost savings, but don't give in (in reality, they may simply ignore you anyway, but do your best). You have X number of faculty now. In the future, you will have Y faculty, where Y is greater than X.

* given the choice of having carpenters refurbish existing laboratory cabinets (i.e., the environmentally friendly option) vs. getting all new stuff, get the new stuff because the carpenters may not actually do anything at all to the old cabinetry and the old stuff might not be ADA compliant

* try to plan for as many possible uses for rooms as possible - having contractors go back later to add things not in the original plan is extremely expensive (e.g., $15,000 to install a single 220v outlet in a utility room).

* meet with the architects as frequently as you can and double, triple, and quadruple check the plans. Be careful that blueprint plans can sometimes revert to earlier versions without warning. Architects can be good and competent people who may genuinely want to work with you, but chains are only as strong as the weakest link.

* try to plan for the DISTANT future of teaching technologies, etc. The planning will take a year or two, then the construction will take another couple years. Consider how quickly technology progresses. I would talk to a tech consultant who has a good idea of what is in the beta-testing stages now, but which has a good chance of being mainstream five years from now. Things will still go "obsolete" quickly, but you'll at least be starting on the starting line. That said, don't marry yourself to a special, single technology/system like 8-track tapes, etc. Maintain flexibility in design.

* Get your university to pony up some money to help with the moving of equipment, etc. from the old building into the new one. I would rather have spent my spring break with my family and/or doing research and/or traveling with my students than working as an unpaid mover.

* Try hard to have them design LARGE office spaces and research spaces. You're going to be working in that cell until the next time they build a new science building (how long ago did they build the one you're in now?)

We can talk sometime if you like.
You know me and how to contact me.

Arr Cee said...

I've talked to many of my lecturers about the future of the department (of geographical and earth sciences), and apparently we're in line for a new building. It really is needed, as our current building is terrible, both structurally and aesthetically.
Thankfully, the people inside it are great!

Christie Rowe said...

get showers e.g. UC Santa Cruz earth sciences building - it really seemed to encourage staff to bike/run to work!

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