Building from the foundation up

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November 17, 2009

3:21 AM

An unexpected defect in part of Small Hall’s foundation has set the construction on the building back several months.

The preliminary demolition needed to make way for the project revealed design flaws in the structural framing of Small’s physics library.

While the construction crews were able to fix the defects, the completion of the first phase of construction will no longer be achieved January 2010.

“It looks like we will be done by March 2010,” physics professor and Chair of the Physics Department Facilities Committee David Armstrong said.

Small, named after Thomas Jefferson’s instructor and professor of natural philosophy William Small, has not been renovated since it was first constructed in 1964.

Small’s renovation is a two-phase project. Currently, two new wings are being constructed. One of the wings will house a high-bay lab area, with two floors of open space and an interior crane. The other will feature labs that can be easily reconfigured as research needs change.

Construction on William Small Research Laboratory began in January.

“[We are] bringing up [the technology] to what we need for this century,” Armstrong said. “What we will be doing largely is adding a substantial amount of research space [which will] catch us up to our peer institutions.”

This includes improvements in HV/AC and electrical technology, and basic infrastructure.

The second phase is to revamp existing portions of the building. Changes will include installing new windows that conserve heat energy, improving the basic infrastructure and ensuring that modern-day building codes are reconciled with modern-day needs for physics research.

“We will be doubling the amount of electric power we can bring into the building,” Armstrong said.

This power will be provided by the new transformer.

The improvements in the research labs will enhance the experience of all physics majors, who are required to do a year-long research project, most of which takes place in a lab environment.

During the spring 2009 semester, student group, Solar Cells On the Roof of Small designed and constructed a solar-cell testing station.

They intended to measure the electrical performance of various solar-cell technologies in order to create energy efficient options for Small renovations. A green roof was deemed too costly.

To accommodate the construction, most teaching labs and classes have been relocated to Millington Hall this academic semester.

In mid March, when the additions are complete, all research labs will be relocated to the new wings, and phase two interior renovations can begin.

The lecture halls will remain untouched for the remainder of the school year and will be replaced during the summer months.

“It’s staged so that it’s lacking in disruption to the teaching and the research program,” Armstrong said.

Small, which currently has 67,000 total square feet devoted to research and teaching labs, classrooms and offices, will have an additional 23,000 square feet after the renovation is complete.

_Flat Hat Assoc. News Editor Ameya Jammi also contributed to this story._

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