May 19, 2008As the University of Houston continues to explore new frontiers of scientific research, some of its laboratories are beginning to show their age.
Thanks to a $57 million renovation plan, three of the campus’ older science facilities will be rejuvenated to better serve UH’s ongoing research efforts.
Approved by the UH System Board of Regents and submitted to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for final authorization, this plan calls for significant improvements to the Lamar Fleming Jr. Building, Science Building, and Science and Research Building 1 (SR1).
“These are very old buildings that have not been upgraded in a long, long time,” said Dave Irvin, associate vice president for plant operations. “They don’t meet current fire and mechanical codes, and their structural layouts are not conducive to contemporary lab spaces.”
The immediate project connected to the renovation plan is the addition of a wing to Fleming Hall. Irvin said the creation of a new section to Fleming will house chemistry and biology labs and will help facilitate faculty, staff and students who might be temporarily displaced during the periods of construction. The new section of Fleming will be located on the building’s west side off Cullen Boulevard. Construction on the Fleming addition is scheduled to begin in January and is estimated to conclude in June 2010.
“We have to provide more labs for our undergraduates,” Irvin said. “A common problem is that many classes close quickly because of a lack of lab space. It causes a dilemma for students trying to graduate and poses challenges in student retention because they often are frustrated by not getting into required classes.”
The rest of Fleming Hall will undergo a complete renovation that is scheduled to start July 2010 and conclude one year later. Irvin said that following construction, the building would be suited to host geoscience and physics labs and College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics offices and classrooms. It also would have a space dedicated to activities related to the university’s collaborative health science initiatives with partnering institutions such as Cornell University and Methodist Hospital.
Work on SR1 will include ensuring the building meets current fire, life safety and elevator code specifications. This project also will include renovations to the building’s public areas and the first and second floors. Work is scheduled to begin in June 2009 and wrap up in August 2011.
The Science Building’s interior will take on an entirely new look and will house brand new tenants following its renovations. Irvin said that after an extensive makeover, the building will be more conducive for classroom and office space than for laboratories. He added that it would be a perfect building in which the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) can expand.
“CLASS is UH’s largest college, and it is very short on space,” he said. “We can redesign the Science Building for CLASS in a way that is very similar to McElhinney Hall and Roy Cullen Hall. This would provide an additional 20,000 square feet for a college that really needs the space.”
Work on the Science Building would take place between July 2011 and December 2011.
“Upgrading these facilities will benefit the university in many ways,” Irvin said. “Teaching, learning and research will ultimately be strengthened. Most importantly, the improvement of these buildings will aid the university as it moves toward Tier 1 status.”