Coming Soon—A New Chemistry Building!
By John Moore and Bob McMahon, project leaders
Earlier this year, the State Building Commission approved an increased budget of $133.1 million for the Chemistry Building Project, the project went out for bids, and construction is underway.
That is a huge milestone in progress toward improving department facilities. The project includes a new nine-story tower; renovation of the basement, first, and second floors of the Daniels wing; extensive mechanical upgrades to existing buildings; and important safety upgrades.
Getting to this point and going from here to completion of the project represents a huge collaborative effort on the part of our department, the architectural design team, the University, and the state. That collaboration ultimately will span more than a decade, beginning in 2012 with a Space Assessment and Feasibility Study that had input from the entire department and was completed by Aro Eberle and Ballinger architects, continuing through the preliminary and final design carried out by Strang and Ballinger with major input from faculty and instructional staff, and culminating in completion of the project by Miron Construction. The chancellor of UW-Madison, the president of the UW Foundation, the dean of L&S, the UW System, in collaboration with the state of Wisconsin, have all helped develop and fund this much-needed project. Generous contributions have been received from friends of the campus and the department, chemistry alumni, and current and emeritus members of the faculty and staff. We thank everyone for bringing us to the beginning of a new era!
When construction and renovation are complete, we will have these improvements:
- New instructional laboratories, each with an adjacent write-up room, for all undergraduate courses—general, organic, analytical, inorganic, and physical chemistry
- an advanced synthetic chemistry laboratory and an undergraduate special projects laboratory
- state-of-the art lecture rooms that facilitate small-group interactions and have enhanced lecture-demonstration and audio-visual capabilities
- classrooms and write-up rooms equipped with flexible seating to support active learning
- a multipurpose learning studio that will facilitate our exploration of new and better ways of teaching as well as providing a venue for poster sessions and receptions
- a large atrium and many other spaces where students can study and interact informally
- an information commons pioneering the future facilities plan of the university library system
- improved offices and meeting rooms to support staff, advising, and instruction
- much-needed improvements in air supply and exhaust systems for research labs in Mathews and Daniels wings
- a new fire-alarm system coordinating all four wings of the chemistry complex
- fire sprinklers and fire doors in Mathews and Daniels that improve research-lab safety
The new facilities will enhance our department’s excellent program of undergraduate chemistry education, especially our trend toward active/collaborative learning. The learning studio will be in great demand for active-learning classes and will support the REACH program, a transformational pedagogical initiative described in last year’s Badger Chemist. The information commons is a harbinger of libraries to come.
Demolition and construction are coming at an opportune time. During the next five years the UW-Madison will significantly increase undergraduate enrollment and 55 percent of UW-Madison undergraduate students take at least one chemistry course, so our enrollments will continue their three-decade upward trend. The construction/renovation project will afford a much needed 67 percent increase in organic lab space and more than 50 percent increase in general chemistry lab space. There will be more Badger Chemists in the future!
We are excited that the new building will soon be underway, but change is never simple. For the next three years parts of our instructional program will be in temporary quarters. Analytical labs have already moved to renovated space across University Avenue in the Medical Sciences Center (MSC) (see photo) and many chemistry lectures are being given in rooms 10 minutes away from our building. When the analytical floor in the new tower is complete, part of the general chemistry program will move to the MSC and part will use what will eventually be the physical/advanced analytical laboratories in the new tower. By 2022, we expect that everyone will be in new labs, including some renovated general chemistry labs and a new home for the Chemistry Learning Center in the MSC. Between now and then lots of things will be in flux!
Chemistry, as the central science, is relevant to many other disciplines and is therefore part of the core curriculum of numerous degree programs on campus. By the time they graduate, 55 percent of undergraduates have taken a chemistry class at UW-Madison. As enrollment grew over the years, department and campus leaders noticed that students were often not able to schedule needed courses. This meant it took them longer to earn a degree.
Many students who wanted to enroll in laboratory courses were unable to because of space constraints and failing equipment in the chemistry building complex. In addition, the department has struggled to manage chemical storage facilities and to maintain proper ventilation in an aging facility. The storage and use of chemicals and the creation of byproducts require efficient and effective ventilation, as well as two entry and exit points to each room, to keep students, faculty and staff safe.
The two-phase Chemistry Building Project, which will begin in the fall of 2018, starts with the addition of a new nine-story tower, to house lecture halls, an information commons, offices, teaching laboratories, and group write-up spaces for undergraduate teaching labs. The second phase of the project involves renovation of the basement, first floor, and second floor of the Daniels wing. These floors house teaching laboratories, classrooms, and undergraduate student services spaces.
These additions and renovations will impact the Department of Chemistry and its students, as well as students from numerous other disciplines, including: medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, veterinary medicine, biotechnology, engineering, and biology. Students will have access to active learning spaces and write-up rooms for the laboratory reports they currently complete while sitting on hallway floors.
Help us provide improved instructional and research facilities. Give to the Chemistry Building Project.
- Construction begins on $133 million revamp of Chemistry Building
- 06/2018 State Building Commission Approves Revised Budget, Expanded Scope of Chemistry Building Project
- 12/2016 State Building Commission Grants Approval
- 07/2015 Chemistry Building Project Approved in State Capital Budget
- 12/2014 Chemistry Building Project Design Work Begins
- 09/2012 Chemistry Building Project Approved by UW System Board of Regents
- 12/3/18 "Lane, street closures set around UW Chemistry Building construction site"
- WKOW Coverage of Groundbreaking Event
- 7/30/2018 "Miron low-bidder for $133M UW-Madison chemistry-building overhaul"
- 04/2018 "$220 million building boom on UW-Madison campus will modernize chemistry and agriculture facilities" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- 04/2018 "More spending approved for UW-Madison chemistry complex, meat science, Babcock dairy" Capital Times
- 11/2016 "UW-Madison proposing nine-story chemistry building renovation," Capital Times
- 9/2015 "Help is coming, but scramble continues for UW chemistry seats," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- 04/2015 "UW chemistry labs won't be revamped if state capital budget passes as is," Badger Herald\
- 09/2012 “3 UW campuses hope to replace antiquated science labs,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Fundraising for the new building, including completion of the tower’s fourth-floor research labs, is ongoing. If you would like to help, Donate Here.
Chronology and Timeline
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Chemistry Department crafts the first, comprehensive ‘Issue Statement’ that documents the size and scope of the chemistry instructional program and provides a critical assessment of the facilities requirements of the program.
Preliminary studies establish that the site of the existing two-story portion of the Daniels building is not large enough to construct a new building that address the requirements of the chemistry instructional program
Acquisition of property, contiguous to the existing chemistry building, makes an addition to the chemistry building a feasible option
Chemistry Building Instructional Project approved as a top campus priority by UW-Madison Campus Planning Committee
Master Planning Project for chemistry instructional facilities (18 months)
Governor’s office recommends UW-Madison move forward with the Chemistry Building Project’s design phase
State of Wisconsin approves $107.8 million project and commits $86.2 million in State funding
State Building Commission approves revised budget of $133.1 million and authorizes solicitation of construction bids
New tower complete
Critical for Future Student Success
“Our department is world class in research, it’s world class in research related to chemistry education, yet we don’t have the facilities to implement the very techniques that are developed in this department.”
Former Department of Chemistry Chair
The Chemistry Building Project will help us:
- Enhance degree programs important to the Wisconsin economy, such as medicine, biotechnology, engineering, chemical and biological science, and health sciences
- Accommodate greatly increased student demand for courses in STEM disciplines
- Incorporate modern safety practices and safety training
Implement modern instructional techniques
Project features include:
- Expanded and renovated general chemistry labs
- New organic, analytical, physical, undergraduate research project, and advanced synthesis labs
- New lecture rooms and a flexible active learning classroom
- Student support space for undergraduate advising
- Transformation of the Chemistry Library into an information commons
- Crucial upgrades to existing air supply and exhaust systems
- Safety upgrades for the building complex (fire sprinklers, fire alarm, building security)