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Projectors hummed, test tubes clinked and students buzzed with excitement in the classrooms, labs and hallways of the new Science Center at New London Hall, which opened along with the fall semester Thursday.
"It has been great to see the faces of the students as they see the new building for the first time," Botany Professor T. Page Owen said. "We've had a lot of curious visitors through today, too."
The $25.3 million Science Center, now home to the biology, botany and computer science departments, includes a completely renovated New London Hall, a 14,000-square-foot addition and a complete renovation of the greenhouse. The project, largely funded through gifts to the College, transformed the oldest building on campus into a state-of-the-art science facility.
The new Science Center anchors a "Science Triangle" with the nearby F.W. Olin Science Center and Hale Laboratory, which house most of the College's other science departments. "We have incredible science programs at Connecticut College, and now the facilities match the programs," President Leo I. Higdon Jr. said.
With 28 percent more space for research and teaching, the Science Center is designed to foster collaboration, interdisciplinary work and inquiry-based learning. "We've reconfigured the entire building, built new research and teaching spaces, and made it easier for faculty to work with each other and with students," Owen said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that followed Convocation, the official opening ceremony of the academic year. Owen added that while the building is designed for the sciences, it will be enjoyed by students and faculty across the College. In just the first two days of classes, he said, 18 different departments and programs will host classes in the building, and several of the floors have social spaces conducive to meetings and events. "It's very much a College building," he said.
The College's leadership worked with Farmington-based KBE Building Corporation and the Boston-based architectural firm Payette to complete the project in 26 months, including just 14 months of construction time. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, President Higdon joked it takes some people longer to renovate a single kitchen or basement. "It is an extraordinary accomplishment that required the dedication and professionalism of a great project team," Vice President for Administration Ulysses Hammond said.
The College hopes to achieve LEED Silver certification for the building, which was constructed according the College's Green Building Policy and includes a 45-well geothermal heating and cooling system.
At the ribbon-cutting, computer science major Katie Ketcham '13 and botany major Mike LeDuc '14 said they are excited to begin using the building and recognize the impact it will have on the future of sciences at the College. "The renovation and addition to New London Hall demonstrates the institution's strong commitment to the sciences," LeDuc said. "Our beautiful building will be a fixture on campus for years to come and countless students will benefit from our state-of-the-art facilities."
Fun facts about the new Science Center:
- A structural beam signed by thousands of students, faculty, staff and alumni is positioned in the basement of the building, where it is partially visible.
- Large slabs from an aging black oak tree near the building were salvaged and used throughout the building, including as countertops for common seating spaces on the second, third and fourth floors. Arboretum Director Glenn Dreyer said the tree, believed to be approximately 90 years old, was taken down after it began to drop large branches threatening pedestrians and the new greenhouse.
- The building harnesses the heating and cooling power of Tempel Green with 45 geothermal wells buried below grassy areas regularly used for outdoor studying, impromptu Frisbee games and sunbathing.
- The Science Center includes 7 new research labs, 7 new teaching labs, 5 classrooms and 22 offices.