The Utah State Legislature approved funding of $57.4 million for the Tracy Hall Science Center, the new science building at Weber State University. Construction on the approximate 175,000-square-foot project is expected to begin in June.
“Legislative funding for the Tracy Hall Science Center is secure, and Gov. Gary Herbert now has 20 days to sign the bill,” said David Matty, the dean for the WSU College of Science.
The new center is in the final design phase and will be constructed where Buildings 3 and 4 are now located. Demolition of those two buildings will begin shortly. Once construction of the new science center is complete in June 2016, demolition of the old science building will begin in Fall 2016.
The Tracy Hall Science Center will incorporate seven core themes addressed by College of Science faculty and staff members: sustainability, connectedness, inviting, engaging, nature, comfortable and exploration. Together, the first letter of each word together spells out “science.”
“The guiding principle throughout this process has been to make the best building possible for students,” Matty said.
The new science center will boast a 30 percent increase in academic space compared to the current building. Almost every classroom will have a window, allowing for natural light. According to Matty, studies show that a student’s ability to learn, understand and retain is increased by 25 percent in the presence of natural light.
Additional features include increased lab and student study space, an atrium, greenhouse, observatory dome, interactive displays and upgraded safety features.
The new science center will allow for all eight departments within the College of Science to reside under one roof rather than being spread out between five buildings. This will give staff the ability to interact and collaborate and bring the connectivity the department is looking for.
Matty said the architecture of the new science center is not a standard shape. The east side of the building is four levels and the west side is three levels.
“The science department wanted something different, and the planning committee is happy with the design by an architectural firm in Salt Lake City,” Matty said. “It is anticipated that the College of Science will see an uptick of interest in science due to the new building.”
The science center will be handicap accessible and meet American Disability Act requirements, which the current science building does not. It has also been designed to meet a minimum requirement of LEED Silver Certification. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a program that promotes sustainably designed and constructed buildings.
The center’s namesake, Tracy Hall, is a WSU alumnus. Alan Hall, chair of the WSU Board of Trustees, and his cousin, David Hall, donated a $5 million gift in honor of David’s father, Tracy. Tracy Hall received his doctorate degree in chemistry and, while working at General Electric, invented the process of making artificial diamonds. He later started his own business, where he continued to hone his invention.
“WSU is very lucky to have such generous friends,” said Norm Tarbox, vice president for administrative services at WSU, “and it has made a world of difference in how our project is being considered at the state level.”
According to Matty, the science center has been in the planning stages for 45 years, ever since the existing Science Lab was built in 1969. The plaque outside the existing building reads Phase I, and there was supposed to be a Phase II.