CAMS building to enhance science education at UMD

A future view of the CAMS Building from the north. Source: BWBR Architects, Inc.

A future view of the CAMS Building from the north. Source: BWBR Architects, Inc.

Rising from the northwest corner of Maroon Parking Lot B is the future Chemistry and Advanced Materials Science (CAMS) Building, a state-of-the-art facility that faculty and staff say will greatly improve science education at UMD. McGough Construction is making steady progress on the new 56,000 square-foot building, which is estimated to be finished in the middle of the next school year. The project came about because of two factors: an external review that found deficiencies in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department’s facilities and the idea to create an Advanced Materials Science center.

The Minnesota Legislature approved $1.5 million towards design work, and UMD paid to complete the design, so construction could begin as soon as funding was available. The Legislature failed to pass a bonding bill last year, so the project was put on hold until Governor Dayton signed a special bonding bill, which included $28.3 million for the CAMS Building, on May 30, 2017. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on July 11.

The three-story CAMS Building will contain research laboratories, the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department offices and the Advanced Materials Center (AMC). The AMC was created with a gift by Kurt Heikkila (MS ‘79) and his wife, Beth. The Center’s goal is to train students in fields such as 3D printing, microelectronics and synthetic materials. Minor calls the AMC “an incubator between chemistry and engineering.”

The building’s location was chosen in accordance with the 2013 Campus Master Plan. It is also in proximity to the Chemistry building, the School of Medicine and the James I. Swenson Science Building. A skywalk will connect the CAMS Building to the School of Medicine. The architects are BWBR, Inc., a St. Paul firm that designed the Microbiology Research Facility at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities (2015) and the Jason R. Carter Science Education Center at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul (2016).

The current Chemistry building, completed in 1949, was the first building on UMD’s new campus. Although structurally sound, the nearly 70-year-old facility cannot keep up with increased enrollment and changes in science education. According to Facilities Management Director John Rashid, remodeling the laboratories was not possible.

“There isn’t sufficient floor-to-floor height to run all the utilities necessary for a modern chemistry building,” Rashid said. He added that UMD has asked the Legislature for $8.5 million to remodel the current labs into classrooms and offices once the CAMS Building is complete.

Chemistry Department Chair Elizabeth Minor said lab work can be inefficient because there are not enough fume hoods for the number of students who need to use them. Fume hoods are cabinets with filtration and ventilation systems that are necessary when working with volatile chemicals.

Minor pointed out that the current labs are not conducive to adding safety requirements such as two exits, safety showers and eyewash stations, although they have been installed whenever possible. Heavy renovations would also require expensive asbestos abatement.

Collaboration will be a major component of the CAMS Building. Minor says it will be much easier for students to move around, and there will be ample space for groups to meet and work together. Open walls and windows will allow people to “see the science going on.”

Gage Sachs, a graduate student who helped advocate for the CAMS Building, said research in the building will “establish direct links between the research done at UMD and Minnesota businesses.”

“I imagine that this will come to benefit our region by generating both the ideas and technology that is needed to meet our challenges as a society,” Sachs said.

Despite high energy use that comes from fume hoods and other lab equipment, John Rashid said, “The amount of energy it [will be] using per square-foot is far better than what it needs to be by code.”

The design and construction follow Minnesota B3 guidelines (Buildings, Benchmarks and Beyond), managed by University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research. The building will include an abundance of natural light, a 50-kilowatt solar array on the roof and stormwater management features.

UMD Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty and staff at the CAMS Building groundbreaking on July 11, 2017. Photo courtsey of Brett Groehler

UMD Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty and staff at the CAMS Building groundbreaking on July 11, 2017. Photo courtsey of Brett Groehler

Rashid said construction is right on schedule.

“We actually had legislators on campus yesterday [September 26] who were amazed that we were as far along as we were,” Rashid said.

University Drive is currently closed next to the building site, but it should reopen some time in October. Construction displaced around 335 parking spaces, but Transportation and Parking Services has compensated by expanding and reconfiguring other parking lots. A live stream is available to watch the construction process.

When complete, the $44 million building will provide modern spaces for research and collaboration.

“Having access to the most modern teaching and research resources both prepares students for modern, ‘real-world’ experiences and inspires students and ideas to be at the forefront of technology,” Sachs said.



Correction made Oct. 10, 2017 at 7:50 p.m: Solar array on the roof of the future CAMS building is 50 kilowatts, not 50 megawatts.

NewsTucker Nelson