A New Beginning for an Old Soul

Galen Lif, Gould Evans

STEM is a seemingly recent foundation of today's educational institutions; but a closer look tells us that science buildings on college campuses across the country have been around a long time. They are plentiful - but aging and sometimes not very gracefully. This session is a case study of a renovation of a 1960's era science education building at a state university with an examination of some of the lessons learned.

A replacement building was a consideration, but ultimately the more sustainable choice of renovating the existing facility to modern standards was chosen. However, it was not without its challenges. Stretching a limited budget to improve not only the aesthetic condition of the teaching and research labs but also maximizing the ability to improve the environmental, health and safety of the lab occupants as well as the entire building was a paramount concern for all involved.

How to educate the educators was also big factor on whether the project would be as successful as it could be. Teaching students in a more efficient and safe manner with new bench configurations enhanced their ability for audio and visual observation and communication. Improvements to the quality of the water, air, gas and vacuum systems also upgraded the results in their course work.

Even with expanding some of the teaching labs and adding more fume hoods, by focusing on the elimination of old-outdated lab equipment and replacing them with new energy efficient fume hoods and biological safety cabinets resulted in a net decline in energy used.

With the numerous sustainable improvements of the project aside, the ultimate goal was to improve the labs and other teaching spaces by providing the student and faculty prime learning and teaching experiences. After all, successful recruiting of students and faculty to persistently build and enhance STEM programs for the benefit of everyone is the most sustainable goal of all.

Learning Objectives

  • Attendees will be able to work with users and facility directors for data gathering and setting project goals
  • Attendees will be able to work with engineers and EH&S officials on how to safely set up HVAC systems for reduced laboratory exhaust air
  • Attendees will be able to work with an owner and a construction manager to best identify scopes of work that can maximize a project budget
  • Attendees will be able to recognize unique challenges presented in laboratory renovation projects


Mr. Lif is an architect and laboratory planner with a passion for working on complex laboratory renovations with a talent for improving existing conditions and rejuvenating labs that have seemingly lived past their useful life. He has over twenty-five years of experience in the design and construction industry in a variety of disciplines. Mr. Lif is a long time member of I2SL and a past recipient of a Lab of the Year High Honors Award.


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