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September 1, 2011

What’s New: Places

The hustle and bustle that marks the beginning of the academic year has returned: The proliferation of laundry carts, redirected traffic, upperclass student volunteers pointing the way to newcomers and their families during Arrival Survival.

But for many at Pitt, the hazy days of summer have been anything but lazy: Facilities were renovated; faculty and staff were hired; academic programs were established.

The University Times asked deans and other school officials to provide a brief look at “What’s New? People, Places and Things” in their areas.

The summaries that follow are not all-encompassing, but rather are overviews of school news based on material submitted by the units.

Information previously published in the University Times was not included here.


In the School of Arts and Sciences, Thackeray Hall is being renovated to meet program needs and to upgrade the building’s infrastructure. Approximately 5,700 square feet of space on the ground floor consolidates the Office of the Registrar’s departments, and the student service area has been expanded to support the volume of visitors.

On the 1st floor, approximately 935 square feet of space was redesigned for the Office of Student Records. The expansion includes a larger reception area that will house state-of-the-art computer kiosks and a plasma screen television.

On the 2nd floor, approximately 1,000 square feet of office space is being constructed for the new Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (formerly the Office of Experiential Learning) and the College in High School program, which temporarily is in Old Engineering Hall while renovations are underway.

The undergraduate research office will move from Thaw Hall to Thackeray later this academic year.

An additional 1,500 square feet in Thackeray was renovated to consolidate the registrar’s administrative offices and information resources area.

On the 3rd floor, approximately 2,085 square feet was renovated to accommodate the relocation of three classrooms and the administrative offices for the Office of Freshman Programs, which will move from Thaw Hall.

These upgrades will enable smaller class sizes and new pedagogical approaches in the Freshman Studies course, which introduces A&S freshmen to University life and the resources that Pitt has to offer.

Approximately 3,300 square feet on the 4th floor was renovated to accommodate faculty offices, graduate student offices, a seminar room and a conference room for the Department of Mathematics.

The former Math Library is being converted to office space. The area will house scholars who will join the math department as part of a National Science Foundation-funded research program.

Building renovations also included mechanical, electrical and plumbing infrastructure upgrades and the installation of a new sprinkler system.

In the Chevron Science Center, an accelerated renovation schedule began when the spring term ended. Approximately 7,500 square feet of space on the 2nd floor has been renovated to create four new general chemistry laboratories.

The redesigned labs incorporate a horseshoe shaped design with “wet-lab” student work areas positioned around the perimeter of the room. Separated by glass partitions in the center of the room is the “dry-lab” area, which is designated for instructor presentations and student discussion sessions.

The labs include instructional space along the walls and a glass partitioned lecture space in the middle of the room.

Approximately 8,300 square feet of lab space is being renovated on the 5th floor  to house “ballroom-style” (multipurpose) wet labs. In addition to providing flexible laboratory furnishings and fixtures, the work will replace obsolete mechanical systems and laboratory controls. The design reclaims previously underutilized circulation areas for use as student research areas. Energy- and water-saving upgrades and Americans With Disabilities Act improvements also will be included.

The chemistry department’s computer classroom, formerly located in Eberly Hall, has been relocated to the Ashe Auditorium mezzanine in Chevron. This new glass-walled classroom has 30 computers mounted on shelves that position monitors for optimum viewing without obstructing the view of the instructor teaching the class. The shelves also can be retracted completely to provide a flat desk surface.

Ashe Auditorium has received updated finishes and seating in the lobby, wireless Internet access throughout the space and a new main entry to the building.

The Chevron Annex, built above Ashe Auditorium, will provide additional lab space to support the Department of Chemistry’s research in organic synthesis and chemical biology. The 31,331-square-foot annex is perched on steel support columns that sit on bedrock and rise through the dividing walls of the auditorium’s lecture halls.

The 20,800-square-foot annex will house synthetic organic chemistry using the ballroom design approach. The annex includes new laboratories, student seating areas, faculty offices, a conference room, a kitchenette and restrooms on each floor.

Facilities Management is pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Gold Certification designation for the Chevron Annex project.

Department of Physics and Astronomy facilities are undergoing significant renovations supported by a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The work will continue for the next several years but a number of experimental physics research labs already have been built or renovated. They include renovations of new introductory undergraduate laboratories on the 3rd floor of Old Engineering Hall, a computer machine room in the building’s basement and a faculty center and seminar room on the 3rd floor of Allen Hall.

Work on experimental research labs in particle physics, condensed matter physics and nanoscience in the nuclear physics laboratory is expected to be completed by next summer.

New classrooms have been created in 3,350 square feet of renovated space on the 4th floor of Old Engineering Hall. Two physics teaching laboratories were upgraded to incorporate additional seating, new experiment tables, additional equipment storage space and updated finishes. Offices on the 4th floor also were upgraded. The project  provided new restrooms and circulation spaces, and all areas received mechanical and electrical upgrades and new windows.

In the Frick Fine Arts building, a new Visual Resources Lab is being constructed on the 1st floor. The lab will bring professional-level equipment and facilities to students and faculty working on the digitizing and cataloging of the University’s artistic and photographic slide collection.

The Petersen Sports Complex, a 12.3-acre Olympic sports complex that houses three NCAA-regulation venues for men’s baseball, women’s softball and men’s and women’s soccer, now is open for competition. All three Department of Athletics venues have artificial turf playing surfaces, regional broadcast sports lighting, scoreboards and press boxes. The venues seat 725 for soccer, 900 for baseball and 600 for softball. The baseball and softball venues include team dugouts, bullpens and batting cages. The complex is anchored by a two-story, 23,000-square-foot support building housing public restrooms, locker rooms and training facilities.

A new dining option is available at Pitt-Bradford. Intermetzo Express! in the Hanley Library lobby will serve coffee, cappuccino, bottled juices, tea and water, pastries, salads, fresh fruit, sandwiches and wraps, 8 a.m.-1:45 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Part of the new College of Business Administration Center for Student Success on the second floor of Sennott Square.

Part of the new College of Business Administration Center for Student Success on the second floor of Sennott Square.

In Sennott Square, renovations to the 2nd floor have created a new office suite for the College of Business Administration Center for Student Success. The project included upgrades to approximately 8,400 square feet of space, upgrades to the student team-training rooms and interior finish upgrades to the main corridors and student seating/study areas on the floor. The new center includes a large interactive waiting area to accommodate an expanding student population; an alumni networking lounge and conference room; enhanced interview rooms, and upgraded advising and career services offices.

Renovations are underway in Trees Hall to update space for the health and fitness programs offered to faculty, staff and the community through the School of Education’s Department of Health and Physical Activity. The renovated space also will provide enhanced service for Community Leisure Learn programming. The space will include a state-of-the-art exercise room with cardio and strength-training equipment, and two group exercise spaces to support classes such as yoga, Pilates, aerobics and cycling. The new space is expected to open in January.

The Office of Facilities Management is overseeing a number of capital projects. Among them:

• Phase IIA renovations to Benedum Hall continue to upgrade the building’s outdated utilities infrastructure, ventilation systems and programmatic spaces to meet current standards for research and teaching facilities. The renovated spaces also are receiving updated fire alarm, automatic sprinkler and security systems. This phase involves renovations to 106,000 square feet of the building on the basement level, 3rd floor and the 6th-8th floors.

A new basement mezzanine level was created in the former high-bay sub-basement level and now houses three new computer classrooms that were moved from the 3rd floor, as well as supporting offices and one new lab. The addition of the mezzanine level added approximately 8,000 square feet of usable space.

The 6th floor has been renovated and recently reopened for the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. The renovated space includes administration offices and research labs. Some space on the 3rd floor will be converted into computer classrooms.

The rennovated 9th floor of the William Pitt Union.

The rennovated 9th floor of the William Pitt Union.

• In the William Pitt Union, approximately 9,200 square feet of space on the 9th floor has been renovated. The renovation provides a new student study area/lounge; offices for Residence Life, Pitt Arts and Student Volunteer Outreach; a 20-person conference room; a kitchen/coffee area, and file/storage areas. The HVAC systems also were upgraded and new energy-efficient lighting was installed.

• A 1,600-square-foot greenhouse facility has been constructed on the roof of the connector bridge between Langley and Clapp halls for the Department of Biological Sciences. A structural frame and floor were constructed to support the installation. The two-zone greenhouse is equipped with a computerized environmental control system that regulates plant growth factors by allowing variable set points for temperature, humidity and light. An automatic fogging system controls temperature and humidity.


The new greenhouse on top of the connector bridge between Clapp and Langley halls

The perimeter heating system, horizontal air-flow fans and chilled-water cooling units under the plant benches are part of the energy-efficient design. Each zone is equipped with motorized retractable shade and heat retention roof curtain systems and motorized roof and sidewall vents. A motor-controlled height adjustable light fixture support rack system and two types of growth light fixtures over the mobile plant benches allow for flexibility and a variety of conditions within each zone. The greenhouse facility increases research capacity for undergraduate and graduate students in biological sciences.

• The recent renovation of suite 501 in the Cathedral of Learning began with the restoration of the space’s original vaulted ceilings and woodwork. In the center of the suite sits the new English Commons Room, where artistic interpretations of the original architectural plans for the Cathedral adorn the walls. A glass wall affords a view of Heinz Chapel but, with the flick of a switch, the glass becomes frosted, creating privacy for lectures and other events.

A new community rain garden near the Pete.

A new community rain garden near the Pete.

• A group of Pitt students led by Engineers for a Sustainable World teamed up with the Swanson school’s Mascaro Center, Facilities Management, the non-profit organization SEEDS, the Department of  Geology and Planetary Science and SMG (the management company of the Petersen Events Center) to create a student community rain garden on the northwest corner of the Petersen Events Center lawn. It will capture rainwater and hold it in a shallow pond-like garden structure until it can penetrate the soil naturally. The garden is designed to reduce the amount of run-off that floods both Pittsburgh’s sewer system and the grass on The Pete’s lawn. The project was initiated via a 2011 student community project grant award from the Mascaro Center.

• A new 155-bed apartment-style undergraduate student housing building has opened. The building includes four stories plus a basement with a total area of approximately 64,800 gross square feet. This project added 48 units of three- and four-person apartments to the current Bouquet Gardens housing complex, located between Oakland Avenue and South Bouquet Street.

Similar to the existing residences, each unit consists of single bedrooms, full kitchens and a living room. The building also contains a resident director’s apartment, a campus police substation, laundry facilities, a mail room, a fitness room and indoor bicycle storage.

The School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Human Engineering Research Labs moved to Bakery Square in July. The labs are involved in research related to wheelchair and assistive devices design, robotics particularly related to disabilities assistance, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury disabilities.

The school’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology labs also are housed in the development, located on the site of the former Nabisco plant in East Liberty.

The Health Sciences Library System (HSLS) computer lab is moving out of the computer and media center in Falk Library. In the next several months, the help desk, desktop computers and public printing stations will be moved to a new location on the upper level of the library. In addition, HSLS is increasing the number of circulating tablet and laptop computers available.

Biddle Hall, one of Pitt-Johnstown’s primary academic buildings, underwent a complete renovation during the summer, the first major renovation since it was built more than 40 years ago. The building has become the new home to the business department and Jazzman’s Café and Bakery, and now features four additional classrooms. As part of the project, all classrooms in the building are technology ready.

Briar Lodge residence hall also received an extensive upgrade over the summer. The project included installation of new flooring, lighting and wall coverings, along with a renovation of the bathroom facilities.

The Barco Building’s student lounge, located on the ground floor, has reopened. This $1.8 million, 10,000-square-foot renovation added more seating options, flat-screen televisions, new lockers and the Barco Café coffee shop.

In addition to a lounge, the lower-level locker area of approximately 500 square feet has been upgraded to create several offices for student organizations. All renovated areas include upgraded finishes, lighting, signage, heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems and wireless access.

The new student lounge in the law school.

The new student lounge in the law school.

Major construction at the Graduate School of Public Health has begun. A new laboratory facility and classroom upgrades are on the docket.

The 56,000-square-feet of additional lab space is expected to be complete by summer 2013.

The renovations to Parran and Crabtree halls, which have not been renovated since they were built in 1957 and 1966, respectively, will include energy and maintenance efficiencies and Americans With Disabilities Act compliance features. The renovated space, which is expected to be complete by 2015, will include “smart” classrooms and common spaces designed to enhance the learning environment.

The Staff Association Council’s office has a new location. Formerly in Bellefield Hall, the SAC office now is located in 504 Craig Hall.

The phone number — 412/624-4236 — remains the same. SAC also can be contacted at

Pitt-Titusville is opening a “serenity house” in the space that formerly was the McKinney estate summer house. The remodeling project was made possible by a gift from the estate of UPT alumnus Scott Kriner and is expected to be complete later this month.

The serenity house will provide students with a tranquil place to study and interact between classes. Upgrades include new furniture, electric and heat installation and fresh paint.

In addition, groundbreaking is expected later this month on a 10,000-square-foot addition to the dining facility in UPT’s J. Curtis McKinney II Student Union. The expansion at the student union will replace the current facilities at Ball Hall and is expected to make dining services for students, faculty and staff more efficient. The project also will provide multiple-use space to accommodate campus events and activities.

The University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR), formerly at 121 University Place, now is housed at 3343 Forbes Avenue, directly across from Magee-Womens Hospital. The center’s former building is being razed to make room for a new undergraduate residence hall.

UCSUR’s main phone number remains the same, 412/624-5442.

—Peter Hart & Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 44 Issue 1

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