Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 7
 
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
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Largest Building on Campus Will House Chemistry Department, Beginning in Fall

Dilshanie Perera

The latest additions to Princeton University’s “Science Neighborhood” are taking shape, with the new chemistry building and Streicker Bridge slated for completion later this year.

Senior Project Manager James Wallace of the University’s Office of Design and Construction, estimated that the chemistry facility is about 80 percent complete, and will be ready for a phased move-in by faculty members beginning in the fall.

Members of the media clad in hard hats and safety goggles were treated to a building tour led by Mr. Wallace last Friday, which began at the Carl Icahn Lab and traversed Streicker Bridge, which spans Washington Road midway between Ivy Lane and Faculty Road, to the chemistry building. Because it is currently a construction site, the path is not yet open as a public thoroughfare.

New York-based Turner Construction company is managing the building of both the new chemistry building and the bridge. Hopkins Architects of London in collaboration with Payette Associates of Boston designed the edifice, while Christian Menn of Switzerland engineered the bridge in conjunction with the firm HNTB of New York.

Mr. Wallace described Streicker Bridge as an interplay of three arches: two cast from concrete and comprising the walkways, with the third made of steel. He envisioned sustainable landscaping on either side of the bridge to create a “pedestrian plaza.”

Going east across the bridge leads to the new chemistry headquarters, which is the largest single building on campus with an area of 265,000 square feet. It will house the university’s chemistry department, and at full operation can host up to 30 faculty members, 30 departmental staff, and 250 to 300 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research staff. Teaching laboratories and the auditorium are expected to accommodate several hundred undergraduates.

The building is “organized around a central atrium, with research labs on the east side, and conference rooms and office space on the west,” Mr. Wallace explained, pointing out the interior bridges that span the atrium and connect the halves of the building at each floor.

The state-of-the-art structure is equipped with both cutting-edge and sustainable amenities. Photovoltaic panels on the roof will provide a “modest amount of power,” with their shade assisting in cooling the building during the summer. Exterior glazing and sunscreens are designed to optimize daylight and control heat gain. Sliding glass doors in the 81 faculty offices and group rooms are linked to the cooling system, in such a way that if the door to a room is open, the air conditioning to that office is turned off.

Research space has been designed with input from current faculty members. Mr. Wallace explained that the physical chemists would be on the third floor of the building, with biochemists and organic researchers on the second and first floors, respectively. Laboratories have layouts that are conducive to the specific kinds of research being done in them.

Inside the labs, every researcher has a desk, fume hood, and length of bench to conduct experiments. The building is equipped with 200 research fume hoods and 180 teaching and student fume hoods that operate slightly differently. The research fume hoods are highly efficient, with infrared sensors that determine amount of activity at the hood, with the sash dropping automatically if the researcher moves away from the space. The closed fume hood uses much less air flow, and the sensing capacity of each hood “will have a tremendous impact with respect to energy savings, as well as the operating costs of the University,” Mr. Wallace said.

The foundation of the building is purposefully built into the bedrock to allow for “research labs that require tight environmental controls,” Mr. Wallace remarked. The basement of the building is outfitted with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) equipment, secured so that no vibrations are felt by the equipment. Also in the basement are upper level teaching labs for chemistry majors, and a 250-seat auditorium. A tunnel from the chemistry building connects to Jadwin Hall and the Department of Physics through the basement level as well.

The Chemistry Department currently operating in Frick Lab will be moved in its entirety to the new chemistry building, likely over a six-month period beginning in the fall of 2010, one faculty member and corresponding laboratory at a time. Plans are in the works for the reuse and repurposing of Frick, though the specifics have not yet been determined.

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