Construction has began for the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences building, replacing the Academic Services building. A ceremony was conducted before construction began on Wednesday, May 1, with the new building set to be completed by the summer of 2019.
According to an email from the university regarding the construction, “The Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building is an important facility that will greatly expand the university’s life sciences programs and teaching facilities. The project also provides an opportunity to update the areas surrounding the new building” and a page detailing the information regarding the building states that it “will seamlessly connect teaching and research activities to enhance and further stimulate collaborative approaches to advancing the State’s biotechnology industry and increasing the number of STEM graduates.”
The Interdisciplinary Life Science building will have active learning classrooms (four 90 and four 48-seat classrooms), four teaching labs, four seminars and six collaborative project rooms and two other types of labs. Some of the interdisciplinary labs include 12 shared research labs, environmental systems lab, research lab support rooms and a BioProcess and Cell Science facility.
In addition to the new building, there will be modifications to the Commons Circle Plaza and the Quad. The Commons Circle drop off area will be removed and a “new drop off circle will be created around the pond just south of the Physics Building and parking lot 2.” The Commons Circle has now been indefinitely closed to personal vehicles. Only service and delivery vehicles will have access. There will be a new plaza with pathways and plantings, and renovations to the Quad, which will have added pathways and landscapes.
On May 1, access to the Quad was closed and the Quad will stay closed during the first year of the project. The email stated, “Access to buildings in the area will remain open, however we recommend using alternate pathways outside of the Quad during the construction period.”
Joe Rexing, director and University Architect, stated, “I think it will really improve the feel and the outside room we know as the Quad. I’m really excited about the sight improvements that will improve this place and as well as improve the Commons Circle place. I think it will create great new community spaces here at UMBC. The building itself will really enhance our ability to teach in a modern facility and do research in a modern facility.”
“The quad as we know it will be pretty much the same. There’s one additional walkway like this one that’s padded and soft so you can continue to play and have Quadmania across it. They’ll be some new plantings along the edges but still open in the middle. They’ll be new and improved lighting so it’s safer in nighttime activity. So it’s going to be a much nicer, but similar place.”
Some students have commented regarding this new development. Mayukha Pakala, sophomore biological sciences major, stated, “As a bio major I am really excited that they are building a new building for bio labs since I have experienced times where the power has gone out while in lab. But I am also sad I will never be able to see or use it since it will be completed after my graduation. I am happy that the money I pay to the school is going for other students with same major as me.”
Emily Thomas, junior political science and global studies major and SGA senator, stated, “I’m in full support of this building. Obviously there are some things that our senate is kind of concerned about. One part of it is just all-glass – we discussed how we’re concerned about that in regard to an emergency – people can see us, but anyway we’re really excited about this building and what it has to offer to the university.”
Thomas also stated, “I think that, for a lot of student organizations on this campus, it’s going to be very hard for them because the Quad is such a great meeting place for a lot of events and things happening. But obviously we can move them to Erickson Field or other places on campus. I think it’s a great expansion to it because we are limited in space as it is so expanding that further would be great.”
“One concern about that is that a lot of dance clubs have met in the old theater. Space is already tight as it is. However, this is just one price to pay for the greater good.”