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Princeton University Shows Off New Chemistry Building

When completed this fall, Princeton University's new chemistry building will be the largest single building on the Ivy League campus.

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by Kristine Snodgrass

When completed this fall, Princeton University’s new chemistry building will be the largest single building on the Ivy League campus.

The four-story structure, with an area of 265,000 gross square feet, will serve as the new home for the university’s entire chemistry department, which will be relocated from Frick and Hoyt laboratories.

Project Manager Jim Wallace said last week that construction on the building is more than 80 percent complete.

”We’re working hard for a move-in by the fall, and we assess that on a regular basis,” he said.

If all goes according to schedule, he said, faculty will begin moving in this fall, and the first classes in the building will be held in the spring semester of 2011.

When completed, the building will house 30 faculty members, 30 departmental staff, and 250 to 300 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research staff. Its teaching laboratories and 250-seat auditorium will also accommodate several hundred undergraduates.

The modern design of the structure, its façade dominated by panes of glass, makes it one of the most striking buildings on campus.

Inside, the center atrium divides one wing housing laboratories from another with offices and conference rooms.

Pedestrian walkways connect the two wings across the atrium, which extends to the full four-story height of the structure. Skylights in the ceiling fill the atrium with natural light during the day.

The open design of the building includes “interaction zones,” which will be furnished with lounge chairs and tables, to encourage collaboration among researchers.

”It’s meant to encourage casual interaction during the day,” Mr. Wallace said. There are also plans for a café inside the atrium, he said.

The building’s foundation, 10 feet of concrete on top of bedrock, will permit research that requires ultra-low vibration conditions, Mr. Wallace said.

The exterior walls of faculty offices are made entirely of glass, with sliding doors and balconettes that look out onto Washington Road, the woodland and Lake Carnegie. For efficiency, a sensor on each sliding door turns off the air conditioning to the office when the door is opened, Mr. Wallace said.

It is one of a host of sustainable features included in the building’s design, including a high performance glaze on the building’s glass panes to optimize ambient daytime lighting while controlling heat gain. When natural light is available, sensors dim electric lighting systems. Solar panels on the roof will generate power while providing shading for the atrium’s roof. The laboratories are also designed with sensors to control air supply and exhaust requirements.

Outside, a 12,000-gallon rainwater collection cistern will recycle stormwater for nonpotable uses.

Landscaped rain gardens and biofiltration areas retain and filter stormwater. Re-landscaping of the site will reduce impervious surface.

Construction at the site east of Washington Road between Faculty Road and Ivy Lane, south of Jadwin Hall, began in the fall of 2007.

Frick Laboratory, located farther north on the same side of Washington Road, will be mothballed and later renovated for humanities space, according to university spokeswoman Cass Cliatt. The renovations, included in the university’s 10-year master plan, have been delayed as a result of the sluggish economy, she said.

Construction also continues on the adjacent Streiker Bridge, an arched pedestrian span over Washington Road. The 350-foot bridge, which is 24 feet above the road at its highest point, is expected to be completed this spring. However, construction on the chemistry building will prevent its use until the summer or fall, Ms. Cliatt said.