Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 37
 
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
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New Chemistry Building Comes to Life As Researchers Begin Move Into Space

Dilshanie Perera

A sleek, four-story structure tucked in behind the wooded landscape on the east side of Washington Road, the new Frick Chemistry Laboratory boasts state-of-the-art amenities and labs that are custom-fitted to suit the requirements of the various researchers who are being housed inside.

Faculty began their move along with their research teams in August, and full occupation is scheduled for January 2011. Classes will be held in the first floor teaching laboratories, with several hundred undergraduates likely to use the space, as well as the basement lecture room equipped for demonstrations, in the spring semester.

The 265,000-square-foot structure will accommodate the entire chemistry department, and can include up to 30 faculty members, 30 departmental staff, and 250 to 300 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research staff. A nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI) spectrometry facility is located in the basement for research requiring low vibration conditions as well.

The building itself is awash in natural light, and bridges run across the expansive atrium, connecting the offices on the west side to the labs on the east. Openness and symmetry are key features of the edifice.

“I feel like I’m standing inside the computer model that we studied so closely for years,” admitted University Architect Ron McCoy. The project has been in the works since 2005, with construction beginning in the fall of 2007.

“A highly developed language of structure is part of the ethos behind the building, to create loft-like spaces for researchers,” Mr. McCoy said, adding that “there is a degree of perfection in this system.” He praised Turner Construction for their “absolute care and attention to detail,” pointing out that within the structure, “everything relates to everything else.”

University Project Manager for the Frick Chemistry Building James Wallace explained that the new structure currently houses 150 occupants, and that undergraduate teaching would continue in the old building, renamed after its address, 20 Washington Road.

Finishing touches are still forthcoming, with the University currently awaiting a delivery of furniture for the atrium, which will be comprised of lounge, study, and cafe seating.

Mr. Wallace pointed out the environmentally sound elements of the building, which follow the Campus Plan for Sustainability and include photovoltaic panels on the glazed roof to provide both shade and energy, and efficient airflow systems through the space.

On the laboratory side, physical chemists are housed on the top floors, with the organic chemists located on the bottom floors. Mr. Wallace said that the positioning was intentional, since organic chemists tend to do most of their work under the fume hoods, which require more energy-intensive airflow.

“There is a substantial amount of space available for the expansion of the department over the next few years,” Mr. Wallace observed.

The new Frick Chemistry Laboratory is part of the University’s Science Neighborhood at the south end of campus on both sides of Washington Road that is connected for pedestrian use by Streicker Bridge. The space around Frick is being landscaped to match the plants found around Lake Carnegie, and will include rain gardens as part of the sustainable stormwater runoff system, and a nature path.

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