Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 28, 2022

New teaching labs are put to the test

By ASHLEY FOREMAN | September 26, 2013

This fall saw the grand opening of the new Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories, a 104,400 square foot addition to Mudd Hall, which overlooks the Bufano Gardens. Plans for the new building were first introduced in February of 2010. The building opened in time for the fall semester this year.

The building has four floors, the bottom three consisting of 21 teaching labs, while the top floor is used as a research space. The building also features a partial basement, penthouse and computer labs. The labs themselves are equipped with high performance fume hoods, code-approved showers and eye-wash stations as well as projectors for teaching assistants and professors to use, which allows the building to truly live up to its name as a teaching laboratory.

Catching the attention of many passersby, however, is the full wall of windows overlooking the Bufano Garden.

“I really like having the giant windows because it’s so nice being able to see sunlight instead of working in a basement,” junior Alannah Lejeune, who attends a weekly organic chemistry lab in the building, said. “Otherwise you feel like you’re in a dungeon.”

While the natural lighting is certainly a popular talking point, it is only one of many impressive design features. Travers Nelson, program manager of design and construction, has overseen many projects on campus over the years, including the recent renovation of Gilman Hall. Nelson noted that he is proud of some of the less obvious features of the new Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories, including the color scheme and the open ceilings.

“They’re easy to make changes to and give the impression of a real working space,” Nelson said.

He also pointed out the convenience and functionality of the floors, which are polished concrete. The material is less susceptible to vibration, which can interfere with some of the equipment, and the polish is an environmentally friendly finish that can be maintained with minimal effort over the years.

The floors are not the only aspect of the building that are eco-friendly. The 143 fume hoods are what Nelson calls “heavy breathers,” that in other buildings often cause efficiency issues due to the amount of air that passes through the system. The design team took the issue into account and installed oversized energy recovery wheels to counteract the fume hoods’ effect. Another impressive feature is that every lab is equipped with a decommission switch so that at the end of the day, the professor has the ability to turn off all of the systems in the lab.

“This result [is that] each lab [is] running on approximately zero energy at night,” Nelson said.

Even the wall of windows is eco-friendly.

“It’s a north facing wall, so not a lot of solar heat will be trapped in the lab,” Nelson said.

Due to these environmentally friendly features, the new Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories run on half of the energy per square foot as Mudd Hall. It is certified as Silver according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) but University officials hope to achieve the even-higher Gold rating in the near future.

“I feel confident we will obtain that rating,” Martin Kajic, the University’s client representative for the School of Arts and Sciences, said.

Despite their impressive nature, the laboratories are not the only feature attracting attention. Bridging Mudd Hall to the labs is an atrium, complete with comfortable seating and a coffee bar. According to Nelson, the space was constructed in response to the rave reviews of the Gilman atrium.

“The humanities students had a place to study and relax but the science majors had no similar space until now,” Nelson said.

So far students have really enjoyed the new addition to Mudd.

“I love studying there,” sophomore Jason Sciamanna said. “Only, it could use more seating.”

Sophomore Maddy Halpern also enjoys the modern yet homey atmosphere.

“I love the rocking chairs,” she said. “They’re such a comfort while you’re studying.”

Overall, the renovations have been considered a major success. Positive reviews can be attributed mostly to the faculty’s involvement in the design and construction process. The chairs of departments that would utilize the labs met regularly to voice their opinions during the development process. Martin Kajic agreed that involving the faculty was of paramount importance to the success of the project.

“I am very proud to say that the faculty was involved every step of the way,” Kajic said.

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