Campus Renovations

University of Arizona Breaks Ground on Chem Building Renovations

The University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., broke ground this week on a project involving renovations to its 85-year-old chemistry building and the new construction of a collaborative learning facility. The project has a budget of about $42 million and is scheduled for completion in December 2022.

The work will result in a combined 78,600 square feet of new space for classrooms that encourage cooperation and active learning. The renovated Chemistry building, colloquially known as “Old Chem,” will feature four collaborative classrooms, departmental and advising offices, faculty workspace, three teaching studios, and renovated space for nuclear magnetic resonance equipment, as well as electronic and metal shops.

“From the beginning, when we first revealed our strategic plan, we had our sights on renovating and reimagining the Old Chem Building into learning spaces that would support collaborative and flexible teaching,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins at the groundbreaking. “We are investing in initiatives that encourage active teaching and learning practices, and this renovation is part of our goal to develop spaces on campus that leverage this interactive and holistic approach to teaching and learning.”

The chemistry building’s renovation is part of the university’s ongoing Undergraduate STEM Education Project, which started in 2014 and has seen dozens of standard classrooms around campus turned into collaborative learning spaces. Adding amenities like flexible seating and classroom technology has the end goal of engaging students in active learning practices.

“The renovation of the Old Chem Building will support the College of Science, chemistry and biochemistry department, and University of Arizona campus missions to provide high-quality education and advance research,” said Carmala Garzione, Dean of the College of Science. “The renovation includes state-of-the-art core research facilities that researchers and students across campus can access. There will be a visualization cave for immersive virtual reality learning. The renovation also will enable the expansion of the world-renowned, award-winning ‘Chemical Thinking’ education program that transformed chemical education at the University of Arizona and across the country.”

The university is partnering with architecture firm Shepley Bulfinch for design and with Sundt Construction.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].