North Texas Daily

Decision on science research building construction imminent

Decision on science research building construction imminent

Decision on science research building construction imminent
February 28
00:00 2014

Joshua Knopp // Senior Staff Writer

The building on the corner of Hickory and South Avenue B, across from a Discovery Park and Campus Cruiser bus stop, has been fenced off for months, appearing unused.

But the Science Research Building, considered “under construction” since the summer of 2012, contains a functioning research lab on the second floor. President Neal Smatresk will tour the building next Friday, starting the decision-making process of how to move forward, space management and planning director Darlene Callahan said.

The original plan was to refurbish the building’s first floor, replacing plumbing and electrical systems, adding a sprinkler system and bringing the building into compliance with accessibility codes. But according to a July 2012 report on construction projects, the renovation was behind schedule before construction even started.

Callahan said construction would be more expensive than school officials thought. The walls, particularly the bricks hanging over the windows on the outside of the building, weren’t going to hold up during construction.

“You can equate it to buying an old house, and you think you know all that’s behind the walls, and then you get in there and it starts costing you more and more and more,” she said. “We’re still assessing those numbers right now.

Facilities planner and project manager Janna Morgan said the kind of work they wanted to do was very involved.

“This is a commercial building, and replacement of utilities in a building of this kind takes careful planning and execution, especially with a fully occupied and active second floor,” she said.

She said the plans included working with second floor occupants and temporary power and cooling systems to keep everything working during shutdowns.

With uncertainty surrounding how construction would proceed, the school lost its state funding for the $12 million project and it was placed on hold in December 2012.

Callahan said the building was designed more for scientific research than lab classrooms, though it had housed some international English classes before construction.

Biology professor Guenter Gross, who has done research in the building since 1985 and moved from the first floor when construction started, thinks the first floor would best be used as lab space.

“The issue is that we should be a little bit more interested in productivity,” Gross said. “Right now we need lab space and class space, and we should be using the first floor for that. I’ve been in this building since ’85, and it works perfectly fine. Use it.”

Feature photo: The Science Research building greenhouse. Photo courtesy of UNT.

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