New Science Center Nears Completion
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 02:09
Though workers are still putting final touches on Regents Hall, the university is preparing to mark the official completion of the building with an opening ceremony Oct. 4.
The grand opening will occur inside the hall and will include remarks from University President John J. DeGioia and College Dean Chester Gillis.
According to Ali Whitmer, senior associate dean for strategic planning and faculty development, the ongoing renovations are normal adjustments that occur once a building’s occupants have moved in. In addition to the minor renovations, which include additional landscaping outside the building, a new nanotechnology lab is currently under construction.
But the ongoing renovation and construction have not disrupted the classroom experience in the building, Whitmer said, and faculty members have welcomed the continuing work.
“[The renovations] are minor inconveniences. We had a small piece that we asked to be added to the lab, and it was done in a timely way,” said Peter Armbruster, an associate professor of biology who teaches classes and has his office in Regents. “It’s worth it to get it right.”
Faculty and student responses to the new science center have been mostly positive.
“It’s a night-and-day difference,” associate professor of biology Matthew Hamilton said. “The labs are modern and functional on a level unlike anything we had in Reiss. It’s a lot more comfortable and inviting.”
Haley Maness (COL ’15) also prefers Regents to the older science building.
“Most of my science classes are … here, which is a bit nicer than Reiss, because everything’s really concentrated here,” Maness said. “It just makes for a better classroom experience.”
Hamilton praised the community-oriented nature of the new labs.
“They are spacious, and the way they are designed, we are no longer compartmentalized,” Hamilton said. “It’s much easier to see other students or colleagues and to have conversations about their work and to learn from each other.”
However, some faculty members whose work requires very rigid controls on temperature, light and other factors said they preferred the old laboratory environment.
“I have specific research needs where I need to control certain things,” Jong-in Hahm, assistant professor of chemistry, said. “Most of my lab spaces are in the open-lab spaces, so we’re still trying to adjust to that new concept.”
Temperature control and air flow mechanisms are a main component of the building’s environmentally friendly design, according to Jodi Ernst, a senior Georgetown architect who was an integral part of the team that designed Regents Hall. The center uses heat recycling, high-efficiency cooling methods, natural water filtration and new science equipment, such as high-efficiency fume hoods, to reduce its energy usage.
“We use a method called enthalpy heat wheel recovery,” Ernst said of the building’s cooling system. “Essentially, fresh air is pulled into a material, which pulls out the sensible and latent heat. It is the most efficient way to pull heat out of the air.”
The building is cooled by chilled beams, which operate using water rather than air. According to Ernst, constant air changes are necessary to dispel chemicals and other fumes produced in the building’s labs, and the chilled beams allow the building to maintain a constant temperature more efficiently.
“If you can separate temperature control and air control, you can save a lot of energy,” Ernst said.
The quad beside the stairs in Regents Hall contains a green roof, which naturally filters rainwater for irrigation. The vegetation on the roof hides a large cistern that stores water and sand filters, as well as the mechanical parts of the building, including the loading dock.
The university is also applying for a Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status for the building, the highest certification granted by the U.S. Green Building Council. The university will receive notice about the certification by the end of the year.