Construction to begin on $3.5 million renovation of WT's Natural Sciences Building

By Chip Chandler

A new, multimillion-dollar renovation project will make a transformational impact on West Texas A&M University’s Natural Sciences Building.

The $3.5 million project, which begins Feb. 9, will upgrade teaching laboratories and research spaces for geology, biology and environmental science programs in the Life, Earth and Environmental Science Department. A collaborative teaching classroom for chemistry and biology majors also will be built.

Parkhill Smith and Cooper is the architectural design team for the project; general contractor is Page and Associates.

“These changes are overdue and will transform the existing facilities into state-of-the-art spaces that will provide our students with the background they need to go out into the work force,” said Dr. Kevin Pond, dean of the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. “Not only will we provide a better education for our existing student population, but we also will be able to better attract future students for the program.”

The project also will address several infrastructure needs, including upgrades to electrical, HVAC, plumbing and fire-sprinkler systems, as well as the installation of a backup generator system, said Stan Pena, assistant vice president for facilities.

“We’ll be working on this in various stages so that in-person classes and lab work can continue,” Pena said.

About 20 parking spaces will be closed temporarily during the project but are expected to reopen when the project is completed in August.

The project also will include a new roof.

“We have been working on planning this next renovation since the Department of Agricultural Sciences moved to the state-of-the-art Happy State Bank Academic and Research Building in August 2018,” said Randy Rikel, vice president for business and finance. “Though getting started was delayed by COVID-19, we are excited to get to work in providing excellent new research and learning spaces for our students.”

The Natural Sciences Building was partially renovated in 2007 with the inclusion of smart classrooms and updated laboratories. Home to the Department of Life Earth and Environmental Sciences and Department of Chemistry and Physics, the three-story building is situated on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 26th Street. The building’s most attractive interior feature is the center atrium lobby, a favorite between-classes stop. The atrium is surrounded by 13 classrooms, 41 labs and 47 faculty offices.

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