Planning continues for Sven Froiland Science Complex, renovations to Gilbert Science Center


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 Over a year since the project’s initial announcement, the Sven Froiland Science Complex is starting to take form. The building project will include renovations to the current Gilbert Science Center (GSC) and an addition to the existing structure that will expand the GSC by about 40 percent.

According to natural science division chair Karen Younger, one of the goals of the project is to put the sciences “on display.” The proposed building will include more windows and open space to invite students to explore the research being done in the science department.

“The research that’s happening here is awesome, but it could go so much further with a better building,” junior Lance Shaull said.

When announced in fall 2012, the science center was projected to cost $40 million including $20 million raised by the college and $20 million challenge gift from Sanford.

By the fall of 2013, the agreement with Sanford had changed from the initial match grant, but president Rob Oliver said that Sanford would remain the single largest donor to the project.

Today, the project has been scaled back to a $35 million budget for the GSC renovations and the new addition. The college has raised $18.7 million so far, and that number does not yet include Sanford’s contribution.

“We’re still working with Sanford to finalize the total investment that Sanford is going to make and how we’re going to use that,” Oliver said.

Earlier phases of the project looked at both renovating the GSC and constructing a new facility at the corner of 26th and Grange. However, the logistics of the off-campus location would have led to higher operating costs and class scheduling issues, according to chemistry professor Barry Eichler.

“There were a lot of large-scale issues with running a building offsite,” Eichler said. “We would have made it work, but it’s a lot easier now.”

Eichler also mentioned that keeping the building project on-campus would allow for more collaboration between the different natural science divisions and would be particularly beneficial for biochemistry majors, who move between the biology and chemistry departments.

“At the end of the day … we just determined that it was more costly and perhaps out of our reach in terms of the resources that we had,” Oliver said, regarding the proposed off-campus location.

Younger said another goal of the building project in its current iteration is to construct a building that will be LEED certified. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system that ranks buildings on their efficiency.

“In some ways we’re going to use the building to put the science of energy conservation on display, too,” she said. “We’re hoping the time is right for us to do this and that the short-term cost will be worth the long-term gain.”

While the goals of the project include environmental and energy efficiency, the budget remains set at $35 million. When the project was scaled down from $40 million, the faculty were asked to reduce their planned program by 20,000 net square feet, according to Younger.

“We were able to reduce the scope of the project without impacting the goals,” she added.

Though the project has progressed greatly since its initial announcement, many questions remain unanswered, including how the project will be phased. The current plan includes constructing the new addition first, and moving some classes to the new space while the existing structure is renovated, according to Eichler.

“The faculty and staff have done an amazing amount of work … it’s not easy to imagine the future and push yourself into that,” Oliver said.