At first, it sounded like a disaster.
The entire 1908 addition on the south side of the Natural History Building – all four floors of it – had to be evacuated.
This was the news June 11, when campus officials received word that during an inspection it was discovered that the concrete in the newer section of the building had not been properly reinforced when the addition was built.
For professors like Bruce Fouke, the idea of moving his lab – which was in the Natural History Building’s basement – came as a shock.
But to Fouke’s pleasant surprise – and to many others housed in the building – the move has gone very smoothly.
Moving the 5,000-square-foot geology lab, which is equipped for integrated research in geology, chemistry and microbiology, would be an enormous undertaking. It would take his research team weeks to remove all of the equipment and huge specimens of minerals and rocks and move them to another location.
“I have a faculty appointment in the Institute for Genomic Biology. I contacted them and they’ve been incredibly understanding and welcoming,” he said. “We moved the entire operation from (the Natural History Building) to IGB. So basically as of (that) afternoon, I had a solution,” he said.
Being able to find space so quickly is important to Fouke and other research scientists who were working in NHB.
Those scholars working on master’s and doctoral research need lab space for their bread and butter, Fouke said. Stopping lab work for too long could affect grant funding, he added.
Fouke isn’t the only one who was able to find a quick solution to what could have been a facilities coordination nightmare.
The departments affected by the closing of the building’s 1908 addition are from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: the Geology Library; the School of Earth, Society and the Environment, which includes the departments of geology and atmospheric sciences; the School of Integrative Biology; and the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Karen Carney, associate dean of LAS, said people quickly began working together and finding solutions.
For example, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications found an area to house graduate students from geology, Carney said. “They worked together to make things fit,” Carney said.
Carney and LAS Dean Ruth Watkins said because of the departments working together and the contributions of several key individuals, many classes and labs now have new homes in other places on campus, or in other parts of NHB, or soon will. Watkins said the potentially serious problem virtually disappeared in a matter of days.
Key people in helping to relocate the units: Scott Morris, operations manager for the School of Earth, Society and Environment; Steve Hesselschwerdt, associate director for space management at Facilities and Services; and Dan Ozier, executive associate director of strategic planning, and Melissa Michael, assistant director for undergraduate instruction, both in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
The departments were able to come up with low-cost solutions to a huge problem, Carney said.
“Displacement was minimal,” she said. “It was interesting to see how people reacted to what could have been a morale-buster. “
Watkins said she also was pleased to see how so many people put individual interests aside for the common good.
“It does speak to the relationships and sense of trust in each other,” Watkins said.
“Illinois is a great place because of the collegiality and camaraderie,” he said. “For a place like the Institute of Genomic Biology to completely welcome me and allow me to move my lab and full-time office at the drop of a hat … that’s exceptional.”