UK to Transform, Modernize Chemistry-Physics Building

By Jenny Wells

The University of Kentucky Chemistry-Physics Building is getting a much-needed transformation.

The central campus staple is currently undergoing a two-phase construction project that will result in a renovation of the third floor, as well as a completely new exterior façade of the building, including a three-story entrance/atrium.

The first phase of the transformation — the third floor renovation — is already underway, and will produce 15 research labs, plus support spaces, equipment spaces and offices. The second phase will bring a new exterior façade, which will include a replacement of the building exterior and roof; construction of a new stair tower, a freight elevator, a new loading dock and entrance additions; and mechanical upgrades in the penthouse.

"When the renovation is complete, this building will be a more pleasant, open and inviting place to learn," said Mark Meier, chair of the Department of Chemistry in the UK College of Arts and Sciences. "For students engaged in research projects, they will have modern laboratory spaces that are designed with current science practice and safety standards in mind."

Meier said students and alumni from a range of different departments and colleges have taken one or more classes in the building over the years, including Chemistry 105, one of the largest courses at UK.

"This building has been a hugely important part of the common experience that defines a UK education, not just a place for chemistry and physics majors."

Meier says the renovated space will offer more flexibility and opportunities for faculty as well.

"Currently, the faculty have to bend their research programs and activities to fit the building but through this renovation, the building will now adjust to fit the research programs, and it will be much easier to update the layout as science changes in the future," Meier said. "In the end, research labs will be more efficient, more comfortable and easier to work in."

Phase 1 is a $33 million project scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2021. Phase 2, approved by the UK Board of Trustees last week, is a $26 million project scheduled to be completed in early 2022. Both phases are part of the ongoing $500 million campus modernization plan.

The Chemistry-Physics Building was originally completed in 1962, after then-UK president Frank Dickey worked closely with faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences to design the facility. At the time, it was the most advanced science building in the Commonwealth. The facility ushered in a new era of science research at UK and helped pave the way for the university to take its place among the top tier of research universities nationwide.

While there have been numerous small-scale renovation projects over the years, Meier says the basic infrastructure and layout has never been updated. This transformation will update very old plumbing, electrical and heating systems, as well as remove layers of various mechanical systems that have been added over the decades, offering a clean slate to install reliable, modern systems. The updated facility will have better temperature control, more natural light and new bathroom facilities as well.

"The Chemistry-Physics Building has served the university amazingly well through more than a half-century in which science completely changed, moving from the era of slide rules to the era of supercomputers," Meier said. "These renovations will create the spaces and facilities needed for research to move forward through coming decades when science will change in ways we cannot predict. The renovated building, and the scientific study that is carried out inside it, will be a point of pride for the state."

More information about the project is available at www.as.uky.edu/chem-phys-transformation.  

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