Tech to begin planning for $90 million science building

Tennessee Tech’s new science building investment is expected to reach $90 million, according to Claire Stinson, vice president for planning and finance, as plans progress after Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent budget announcement. This is close to a $5 million increase from Gov. Haslam’s budget reference at the State of the State address Feb. 1. The building, at 150,000 square feet, will be the largest building on campus once it’s completed.

“The Science Building design and construction offers us the opportunity to continue creating the signature experiences we envision for all students,” said President Phil Oldham. “The building will be designed to meet the unique needs of our faculty and students, plus it will help us reshape the campus as we continue to prepare for growth.”

Tech will be required to fund up to $18.75 million while the state provides the remaining $71.25 million of the $90 million price tag.

The governor’s budget called for $581.6 million to build and repair higher education buildings and general state government facilities. Of that amount, Tech received the largest portion, with the next highest amount given to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center for a new $39 million dentistry building.

The new complex will be available to all majors and disciplines, however it will focus on preparing science and engineering students to help further state economic development initiatives.

According to Karen Lykins, associate vice president for communications and marketing, Tech’s number of science, technology, engineering and math students is expected to increase; therefore, Tech wants to accommodate these growing fields.

“As those numbers of STEM students grow and our expertise in that area grows, this will be our signature building that we will grow into. There should be space to expand and adapt. We are building for the future,” said Lykins.

The new science complex will house one of the state’s largest undergraduate chemistry programs.

“In a typical day, almost 2,000 students enter the building to take a chemistry course,” said Jeffrey Boles, chairman for the chemistry department. “A new building will provide even more momentum to help the faculty and students who are responsible for our current success.”

In addition to the chemistry program, the building will also house a portion of the biology program and other sciences. It will also provide laboratories for undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs in environmental science, nursing and engineering.

The initial timeline of construction expects completion by January 2019; however, this timeline is currently under review, and construction should be completed by early 2020 with the building being fully occupied shortly after.

The location of the building, between Peachtree and Stadium drives, was chosen in an effort to join the eastern and western portions of campus. This will increase connectivity throughout campus as westward expansion continues in the future.

According to Tech’s Master Plan, “Placing the Science Building at the western end of the chosen site and aligning its center with Bartoo and Kittrell Halls will allow the new structure to both establish an edge for the academic campus while responding to and extending the Campus’s historic organization.”

The new building will take the place of what is now a commuter parking lot. Plans for a new lot are underway and slated to be completed before ground is broken on the science complex. The parking lot will be located on the west side of campus behind Tech Village.

The old commuter lot has 600 parking spaces, but the planned lot will have approximately 1,100 spaces, according to Associate Vice President of Facilities Jack Butler.

The addition of this new parking lot will follow the plans outlined in the Flight Plan to move all of Tech’s parking to the exterior of campus. Once the parking is moved, an expanded shuttle service will be implemented.

“The goal for the shuttle service is to have a schedule that you can depend on,” said Lykins. “We want it to be absolutely predictable on times of arrival and departure, and also to have enough shuttles to make that happen.”