May 19, 2019

Interdisciplinary science building considered top priority

The proposed master plan calls for a new interdisciplinary science building near the East Academic Building (EAB). The new building is a high priority in the plan.

The proposed building will hold arts and science departments. It will be approximately 80,000 square feet (compared to the EAB’s 90,000 square feet). Greg Gunderson, Chief Financial Officer, estimates the science building will cost around $30 million, but several factors may change that price.

Gunderson said students will not have additional lab fees to cover costs due to the new building. However, if a department wants to add equipment or spaces after the project is complete, students may have higher fees. Gunderson said plans change, but raising student fees to fund buildings is not Webster’s intent.

Senior Loren Douglass said Paul Carney, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, mentioned in a meeting that the proposed interdisciplinary building will accommodate current and possible future programs.

“They want to reach out to student populations that we can’t attract currently or that maybe we’re losing to other schools because students transfer out because we don’t have a program,” Douglass said.

Matt Juergens graduated from Webster in 2011 with a degree in biotechnology/biochemistry. Now, he is in grad school at Michigan State. He said Webster needs more space and facilities for its science program. Juergens said lab experience is important, and students need access to newer equipment and technology.

“We did a lot with what we had and professors are still doing a lot with what they have, but a lot more could be done, if more space and a better facility was given,” he said. “I think that’s a very high priority right now for Webster.”

Gunderson said Webster currently is considering approximately 40,000 square feet for lab space and about 40,000 square feet for mixed-use classrooms in a new science building. However, the exact mix of classroom and lab space has yet to be determined.

The approximately $30 million breaks down into lab space, which is $450 a square foot, and classroom space, which is around $150 per square foot. Lab space costs more because extra exhausts and lines for propane or gas and water are needed. Safe storage space for chemicals is also a consideration. Labs will be used for different types of science classes and will need storage for the different equipment and chemicals those classes require.

Overall, students need more space per square foot in a lab than in a classroom.

A building’s price tag varies at different locations on campus. The current suggested location for the new science building is perpendicular to the EAB in front of H. Sam Priest House.

“Think of them (the buildings) as Legos. It already has the heating and cooling, and Internet functionality we need so if we build reasonably close, we can connect to that,” Gunderson said.

The university is already familiar with the underground aquifers. Webster has the area surrounding the EAB mapped out and knows it’s a safe place to build.

The proposed science building and the EAB will surround Webster’s second quad (also included in the proposed master plan).

The city of Webster Groves must approve the design before construction can begin, but Gunderson said the funding is in place.

“We’re ready for the science building,” Gunderson said. “We need to do a new design after we finalize location and square footage.”

— Josh Coppenbarger and Brittany Ruess contributed to this story.

Click to read about the proposed parking garage addition.

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