With the conclusion of a pair of major construction projects on its Pullman campus, Washington State University is preparing to make way for two new science buildings that will replace aging facilities in the heart of campus.
Louise Sweeney, project manager lead for WSU’s Facilities Services department, said the final phase of the School for Global Animal Health was completed early this year and a new plant biosciences building was finished in October.
With these projects completed — worth more than $130 million, all told — Sweeney said WSU’s next major project will be the construction of a new life sciences building, which will be built where Heald Hall stands. She said it’s still in the early stages, but the new facility will be somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 square feet and WSU plans to ask the state for $53,000 to fuel the project in its next biennial budget request.
“We’re doing the pre-design this biennium, and then we’re requesting the funds in the next biennium to do design and construction,” Sweeney said. “We’ll see how that fares out with the state’s request and how they fund it, (but) we hope to be designing it and building it starting in 2023.”
Another major project in the works, Sweeney said, is the demolition of Johnson Hall to clear the way for a federally funded plant biosciences building, dubbed the Agricultural Research Service, that will connect to the school’s research education complex.
She said the plan is to temporarily move operations housed in Johnson Hall to Clark Hall, which will be renovated to allow research to continue, and tear down Johnson in time for the Federal Government to begin construction in 2023. She said WSU has already received $12.9 million from the state to fuel the demolition of Johnson and renovations in Clark, and the feds will pick up the $103 million cost attached to construction of the new building.
She said the new facility is expected to be completed in three years and will be used primarily by the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences.
“It’s really like crops and soil science, plant pathology — a lot of (U.S. Department of Agriculture) folks that are doing research on, soils, and plants and wheat. Things that really have to do with our land grant mission,” Sweeney said. “Johnson Hall is a very important program, and we are really focusing on creating space for them so that they will be able to continue their research.”
Sweeney said as WSU looks toward future construction, the school is increasingly focused on repurposing existing space rather than acquiring more land to build on. She said WSU is sitting on about $1.6 billion in deferred maintenance — “We have a lot of buildings that cost a lot of money to run.”
Sweeney noted many of these facilities built in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s were built using hazardous materials. While some of these buildings can be saved and improved to meet modern standards related to things like plumbing, heating and cooling and electrical capacity, it’s simply more efficient to demolish others.
“There’s some buildings that just don’t lend themselves to renovation — they would either cost too much or just, it’d be a bigger endeavor than tearing it down,” she said. “We’re looking closely at what buildings should come down, versus renovation, and our mantra is ‘No net new space.’ We have enough space on campus, it’s the quality of space that we’re struggling with, and maintaining it and also being energy efficient.”
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