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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Zachry building awaits renovations

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The Zachry move-out has begun. Roughly 30 percent of research labs housed in the Zachry Engineering Complex have relocated across campus and the remaining labs, academic departments and classrooms are scheduled to be out of the building by December.The relocation will enable the Dwight Look College of Engineering to begin major renovations on the Zachry building to transform it into the Engineering Education Complex, the largest planned academic building on campus. Relocation has been gradual — some people moved out as early as September 2013 — in anticipation for construction scheduled to begin January 2015.
Tell Butler, director for engineering facilities management, said “homes” were established for each department to function as a base of operations until completion of the EEC. Nuclear engineering is the only department still inside Zachry, as the department’s planned home in the AI Engineering Building is undergoing structural upgrades to its heating and air conditioning.
The most recent departments to move out were the engineering vice chancellor and the engineering deans.
Of the 179 labs in the building, approximately 30 percent have already relocated. Butler said strategic planning was necessary to place labs in locations that would be appropriate for their work, resulting in some creative solutions.
“As an example, the nanotechnologies and materials characterization labs are highly technical laboratories that work hand in hand with each other, and there was not a really good space for them on campus for that type of research,” Butler said. “So we actually constructed a new facility for them, which is located in the Research Park. That building is called the Engineering Research Building.”
The transfer of a large volume of research labs presents safety concerns. David Breeding, director of environmental health, safety and security, said the university laboratory decommissioning procedure requires each lab to be submitted for decommissioning 30 days prior to relocation in order to inspect each facility for potential hazards.
“One of the old-timey Aggie traditions was that you paid your dues by cleaning up the old guy’s mess,” Breeding said. “We’re trying to stop that tradition because it was dysfunctional. We want a researcher to come into a lab knowing it is clean and safe for him to start work.”
Breeding said since the labs in Zachry will soon be under construction, it is imperative that the facilities be free from anything that might harm the workers coming in to renovate the building.
“We don’t want to leave dangerous situations or chemicals in the labs unattended,” Breeding said. “When the construction workers come in, it should be safe for them to work in. We want trained people to take care of that in advance.”
Mitch Wittneben, senior information technology professional in mechanical engineering, said while the amount of research labs in Zachry is large, the act of moving individual labs is not out of the ordinary.
“We move research labs all the time for a variety of reasons,” Wittneben said. “Moving out of one facility to another is not an unusual occurrence. If a faculty member’s research expands and the space that he has doesn’t accommodate him, they get moved. And if that space that they moved to is no longer being used for a project of that scope, than they could potentially be moved to a smaller facility.”
The majority of the relocation process is planned for completion by December in anticipation of construction next January. While the renovation of Zachry will not be finished until the fall of 2017, Butler said the benefits would be worth the wait.
“It will be a warm environment where people can work together,” Butler said. “Students will really have a place to call their own.”
Photo by Dee Huggan

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