The Corporation formally approved plans for a $35 million renovation of Hunter Laboratory at its February meeting.
Hunter will be redesigned for environmental science research, and the renovation will take approximately 18 months to complete, said Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior adviser to the president. The building was formerly home to faculty in the Department of Psychology, now housed in the recently renovated Metcalf Laboratories as part of the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences.
With plans to demolish the current Plant Environmental Center and build a new greenhouse on top of the renovated Hunter, environmental science was a logical fit, said Associate Provost Rod Beresford P’13.
The rooftop greenhouse will be the same size as the current one, but will have more sophistication and functionality. Beresford said it was a challenge to find a way to accommodate the same amount of bench space available in the current greenhouse. The way the greenhouse “will look and affect the cityscape” was also a major concern during the design process, he said.
The area opened up by the removal of the existing greenhouse will become a new area of green space, featuring a new entrance to Hunter. Together with the rest of the Walk, it will be “a beautiful centerpiece of the campus,” Beresford said.
Other external changes planned for the building include the addition of windows on the building’s first-floor facade facing Waterman Street.
But the main focus of the renovations will be improving Hunter’s indoor facilities. “The building needs tremendous amounts of work,” said Stephen Maiorisi, vice president for facilities management. “The systems are at the end of their life,” he said, adding that it will be costly just to make the facility usable.
“When it’s done, it will be no different than a brand new building,” he said.
The decision to renovate Hunter was also highly motivated by its central location on campus, Beresford said.
Serious discussions regarding the renovation of the building started around two years ago, he said, adding that the possibility of tearing down Hunter and constructing a new building from scratch was never considered. “It’s a useful container,” he said.
But due to the constraints of maintaining the building’s exterior, there will be no room for expansion of space, he said.
Current plans also include allotting use of the building’s third floor for the School of Engineering. The University has not yet decided what sections of the engineering school will occupy the space – or for how long – though Spies suggested they would likely be connected with environmental science.