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ISSUE 118 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/6/2005

Science center design stalled

By Jean Mullins
News Editor

Friday, May 6, 2005

St. Olaf’s new science center, although on no specified timeline, is slowly working its way through the design stage towards becoming a reality.

"It’s going about the way we imagined," said Pete Sandberg, facilities manager and special assistant to the president. "We’ve never set up a timeline in any case."

Right now, St. Olaf is in the process of negotiating contracts to continue designing the building. St. Olaf is currently designing the schematics (arrangement of rooms and labs, of the building.)

After the hired design team finishes the schematics, it will move onto a more detailed design of the building, which would include placement of benches, countertops and desks.

A problem with the science center is the movement of air through the building. While in normal buildings the air can be pumped in, heated or cooled, and then continually recycled, in labs, the air must be constantly exhausted to the outside instead of being recycled due to possible contaminants.

"It is the biggest issue in design and operation," Sandberg said.

A new science center has been discussed about in the science departments for 10 years, according to Sandberg, but not until July 2003 was the project committed to move ahead.

The current science center lacks sufficient space and many of the labs are not up to date. Sandberg pointed out that the science done in the labs has evolved since the Science Center was opened.

St. Olaf looked into renovating the current Science Center, but found that it would be more practical to renovate the Science Center for administrative and academic use rather than to try and update it for the new needs of St. Olaf’s science students and faculty.

While Sandberg refused to comment on an actual date for a start of construction or a finished science center, most current students will probably not see the construction.

The design alone will take another 18 months at least, according to Sandberg, and then the Board of Regents will make a final approval to begin construction.

Right now, Sandberg expects everything to continue moving forward, but notes that a change in the economy could deter donors, cost the college in operations and delay the building of the science center.

The new science center has been a draw for many prospective students since its conception, even though the construction may not begin before these students would graduate.

However, Sandberg points out that many prospective students, current students and alumni appreciate it nonetheless.

"The message is that it is a dynamic place that has a commitment to these programs," he said. "It shows we are making commitments to students."

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