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Life Science Building Planning Continues

by Santé Shasko and Nicole Cortino

Photo of McKenna Hall by Kaylee Stinebiser.

President Dr. Robert Gregerson confirmed to The Insider that the Life Science building is currently undergoing the second phase of planning out of three. This means that contractors are deciding on small details for the interior of the building, and the layout of the building has been chosen.

Dr. Gregerson described the three phases of designing a new building.

“The first section is called schematic design. That’s where you lay out the big overview of the project. You design the footprint and the overall shape. You don’t get into details,” he said.

They completed this initial section months ago and are now in the second phase.

“We’ve now moved into the design development phase. This is where everything is chosen, such as the color of the walls, designing of the furniture, and where all the electrical plugs will go. When you think of a science building, electrical plugs are a big deal,” Dr. Gregerson said. “Some equipment and projects will require a certain number of volts, and that’s something you can’t change once everything has been built.”

Recently, Dr. Gregerson has been meeting with groups of students and faculty in the nursing and chemistry departments to decide on these important details. On Feb 17., Dr. Gregerson met with the nursing department. In addition, he already has met with the chemistry department. There is also an upcoming meeting scheduled with the biology department.

“One of the great things about being part of a large university is that the University of Pittsburgh has people whose job it is to oversee construction projects. We’ve got people in Pittsburgh to help with every step of the way, including the computer systems within the walls,” Dr. Gregerson said. “The faculty in all the departments tell me what specifically they really need within the rooms and in the walls which are built during construction.”

Dr. Gregerson explained that this planning is essential for the construction.

“These structures cannot be changed once everything is up, so we have to make sure we’ve included everything and got it correct,” he said.

The plans for the new building have been delayed numerous times, but Dr. Gregerson explained this was due to two reasons. The first is that he wants to make sure all the decisions are the best for the campus.

“It takes a long time to find out what you really want. There are always competing ideas,” he said.

The second reason is that the budget is also a restricting factor.

“If you have an unlimited budget, you would do a lot of things you can’t do. You would start to design and then take a step back after applying every bell and whistle, everything you want and hope for to be included, but ask ‘how much does it cost,’” Dr. Gregerson said. “And then they have to take a spatula and scrape you off the floor when you faint.

Budget implications caused many changes to occur, including the structure of the building, which was redesigned multiple times.

“Then, you go back and decide on the priorities. You can’t grasp onto the actual cost of the plan until everything is completely laid out. We have estimates, but they are not the concrete total cost,” Dr. Gregerson said.

The building cost is currently over $18 million. Pitt-Greensburg received $17 million from Oakland, a private donation of $500 thousand, and another $500 thousand grant from the state.

In addition to building the new Life Science building, Dr. Gregerson plans to renovate Smith Hall.

“The Smith renovation is not included in the money that is building the Life Science building. The new building will be connected to the north side of the entrance of Smith Hall. The plan to renovate Smith Hall will be the next phase after completing the Life Science building,” Dr. Gregerson said. “We can ask for additional money from the state to start new projects after completing the initial project.”

Smith Hall and the Life Sciences building will be connected in a way that it creates a U-shape, forming a courtyard.

“We envision [a place] where students can join together. It will be a nice gathering spot for students,” Dr. Gregerson said.

He expects the Life Science building will take 14 months to build, and it is a continuous process. Once it starts, it cannot be stopped.

Some students who have anticipated the Life Sciences building to be constructed will not be able to use it.

“I feel bad because I wish the student group during the creation of the original plan could see the outcome of the building, but they are now graduating. That makes me sad. This year’s juniors won’t be able to experience the building either,” Dr. Gregerson said. “I wish I could go back in time to make it appear, but I hope that those graduated students can come back to campus and have a sense of pride knowing their school is growing and improving.”

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