New science building set to open spring 2013

Amanda Leonard, News Editor

The new science building, which will be the new home for biology, chemistry, environmental earth science, as well as innovative learning environments, has an anticipated completion time of Spring 2013.
The 70,000 square-foot “J-shaped” building will be placed between Stark Learning Center and Conyngham Hall, with half of it connecting to SLC. It will wrap around the outside of the SLC auditorium, ending on a portion of the greenway, according to Loren Prescott.
It is estimated to cost in the $30-35 million range. There will be a mixed source of funding, including $3 million that was already given by the state.  Wilkes will borrow other funds and implement a financing plan.
Loren Prescott, vice president of finance, said that tuition will not be affected by this project and that funds will be raised through a capital campaign in the near future.
“Right now, we are in the final set of construction and will receive the drawings some time this week and after that, the bidding process will begin,” Prescott said.
The bidding process will take between six to eight weeks and construction will begin around March, when the weather is better to work with. Ground breaking was set to occur this fall, but other proponents of the project took longer than originally anticipated.
Prescott said that preliminary site work was performed over the summer and heavy excavation, as well as a year and a half of construction, will begin in March.
The idea to build a five-story building in the middle of campus came after numerous visits to other universities who had recently added to their campuses, extensive discussion, but mainly from the idea that SLC is outdated.
Dr. Kenneth Klemow, biology professor, is the chair of the committee comprised of faculty and staff and has been guiding the development of the building.  He leads and organizes meetings and has helped designed the interface of the building with architects.
He noticed an observation from faculty and students that technology and modern innovations could not be implemented in the current learning environment in Stark.
“About five years ago, we began to discuss that the chemistry labs in particular are out of date,” he said. “We got the figures and specs and realized that it would cost just as much to refurbish Stark as opposed to building a completely new structure.”
After the committee concluded that it would be best to plan to build a new science building, they visited colleges with similar recent additions, such as Swarthmore College, Muhlenberg College, Dickinson College and others.
“Once we learned the process and found out what works, we realized we need a place to be the best we can be,” Klemow said.
Saylor Gregg architects have designed the building and were chosen because they had worked on campuses where a building was needed between two existing structures.
There was concern that construction outside residence halls and classrooms would cause disruption.
“We’re confident that there will be minimal disruption to ongoing programs and classes during construction,” Klemow said.
The science building is planned to be as “green” as possible. Saylor Gregg is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit organization aimed toward building environmental-friendly buildings.
“We are looking to be as efficient as we can in the way we use energy,” Klemow said. “We will be instrumenting the building, meaning we will be measuring how much energy, water and waste we are using and hope to have science courses designed around the efficiency of the building.”
The building is aiming for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, which means that a building was designed and built to be energy and water efficient. LEED certification breaks down into four categories: certified, silver, gold and platinum. Each level is awarded based on a point system, measuring its efficiency, innovation and improved indoor environmental quality, according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s website,
Currently, the building is projected to be at the silver level, but plans are still in progress to achieve gold.
Gloria Barlow, chief of information technology services, said that this new construction allows Wilkes to plan a network infrastructure, as opposed to trying to renovate and update older buildings, such as Stark.
“We can make our networking part of the architectural plan, as well as plan any necessary wiring,” she said.
Barlow said that the science building will be a state-of-the-art learning environment.
“We are looking for this to be a high-end facility with easy connectivity for devices, adequate wireless and modern instructional tools,” she said.
The lobby of the building is said to have a visualization wall, where professors can teach 3-D or classes can congregate to watch videos and images.
Every department will have a student lounge on its floor, which will include high-speed Internet and flat panel televisions. Each lounge will be in the front of the floor and facing the river.
“We are planning for the future,” she said. “We are very excited for Wilkes to incorporate this type of facility.”