Whitmore Laboratory Undergoes Major Renovation

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20 September 2016

Chemistry undergraduate students walked into a brand new building this fall, even though it was built in 1953.

Whitmore Laboratory had been undergoing a complete renovation over the last few years, with the final product ready to use for classes this August.

Reasons for the renovation included the sheer age of the building and the shape and functionality of the labs.

The goal of the renovation was to enable the building to function for at least the next 40 years. The focus was on flexibility. This will allow for the building to remain relevant even as procedural and technological changes take place in the future. Contractors incorporated movable desks and flexible utility arrangements, for example.

Other features include air conditioning; new air handlers; a lab exhaust system; and new windows, heat, and ventilation, including a ventilated chemical storage room. Aside from the safety updates, aesthetic updates were also incorporated throughout the building (e.g. paint, flooring, layout, etc.). Renovations occurred in parts of all four floors (see pictures).

The second floor underwent a major redesign of all of the rooms the students use throughout the year.  There are now two dedicated spaces for the organic chemistry lab courses: one large room that houses CHEM 203 and 213W and  two adjoining rooms that accommodate CHEM 213M and 431W.  The CHEM 203/213W space's layout now consists of eight "bays" which accommodate up to 128 students at one time (16 students in each section).  Each bay has been designed to give each instructor complete view of all 16 students residing at one time - a significant improvement from the prior layout.

Thanks to the efficient organization of the stockroom staff, all community items are now located in the lab as opposed to in the stockroom, thus lessening the amount of foot traffic in and out of the lab.  The new CHEM 213M/431W spaces include a large lab room that can house a total of 32 students and has been outfitted to resemble a graduate-level lab.  The adjoining room contains four rotovaps, additional hoods for research students, and a microwave synthesizer.  The second floor also includes a newly designed Instrument Room with an adjoining working area that all organic chemistry lab students are required to use.

The department’s undergraduate faculty and staff offices are located in Whitmore Laboratory and also underwent a complete renovation. The new undergraduate program office received upgrades including a welcoming reception area for visiting students, a private testing area for student make-up exams, and brand-new staff offices. In addition to the updated labs, the undergraduate faculty members also benefited from new offices and conference rooms.

Over 2,000 undergraduate students occupy Whitmore Laboratory each week, primarily for laboratory instruction.

Larry Johns, the department’s Building Manager, looks forward to the safety and flexibility aspects that the renovated building will provide. His primary role in the project was to coordinate communication among all involved parties, especially important when renovating an occupied building.

Barton Malow Company was the primary contractor involved in the project.

Chem 111 Students in General Chemistry Lab

Chem 213W Students in Organic Chemistry Lab

Chemistry Teaching Assistants tutoring during office hours