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Mudd to be demolished for new science building

Two years after the completion of Carleton’s Facilities Master Plan, construction is set to begin on a new science building to join Olin and Hulings Halls. Completed in 2014, the Master Plan envisioned a 30% space increase for science buildings, along with greater capacity for research and interdepartmental cooperation, proposing an addition connecting Olin, Hulings, and Mudd Halls. Currently in the works is a new facility to replace Mudd.

The College’s Construction Design Standards call for reusing existing buildings where possible, but Mudd was deemed insufficient for the needs of the science departments. Ceiling heights are often too short to accommodate modern laboratory equipment, and even a gut rehab of the building would not yield a desirable floor plan. “It ended up being too inflexible, especially for Chemistry,” said Facilities Director Steven Spehn.

For the past few years, a Science Planning Group has met each month to discuss plans for a new science facility to take the place of Mudd Hall. “Faculty are designing their own research suites from scratch, which is a rare thing,” said group member and Psychology professor Ken Abrams. The new facility will emphasize efficiency, flexibility, disciplinary integration, and modernity.

Not only will Geology and Chemistry activities certainly be disrupted, but there are also concerns about what construction will mean for the other science departments. Renovation in Hulings and Olin and noise from the construction site could be problematic for teaching and research, especially for non-tenured faculty. Professor Abrams said interruptions can be problematic for “faculty who have a limited amount of time to gain tenure from the College.”

“We haven’t experienced [construction disruptions] much at Carleton, so it will be new for some people,” added Facilities Director Spehn. “There will be some noise, for sure.”

Renovations in Olin and Hulings will be minor, but major changes will include new stairwells, connections to the new building, and a new north-south hallway in place of the current Olin rooms 104, 106, and 108. Hulings will receive some enlarged classrooms, and the Computer Science Department will relocate to the third floor of Olin, which will alleviate cramped quarters in the Center for Math and Computing.

The Geology and Chemistry Departments, Mudd’s current occupants, will need to relocate before Mudd can be demolished. In May, construction is slated to begin on the Weitz Center addition, which will house the entire Music Department, thereby creating temporary space for the two departments displaced by Mudd’s demolition. Tentatively, the Geology Department will move into the lower level of the Concert Hall, while Chemistry will occupy the old Music Hall.

Although the new building will replace the current functions of Mudd, it will not necessarily be called “Mudd Hall.” “The College views the new science building as a naming opportunity,” said Facilities Director Spehn.

The new building will adjoin the south wall of Olin and the east wall of Hulings. At the center will be a large, open atrium, which will preserve Olin’s trademark arches. The firm designing the facility is the Boston office of EYP Architecture and Engineering. EYP has designed STEM facilities for a number of major institutions of higher education and private companies, including Harvard University, Virginia Tech, and General Electric. The architects are looking at interior and exterior finishes, while faculty are deciding on furnishings and laboratory equipment. The design team is pursuing a Silver rating for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

As of January 2016, the College estimated the total cost of the project to be $97.5 million, which includes the transitional costs of moving Geology and Chemistry to temporary homes and an escalation factor, taking into account future costs that could be incurred. The Robert and Ardis James Foundation, namesakes of James Hall, gave the College a matching gift of $20 million toward the construction of the new science building. The Development Office continues to work on additional fundraising.

Groundbreaking is expected to be in the spring or summer of 2017. When the new building is completed in 2019, renovations will begin in Olin and Hulings. In an October 2015 campus-wide e-mail, President Steven Poskanzer said the facility will “bolster Carleton’s historic leadership in educating scientists.”

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