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Image of CBE Laboratory Refresh
6/21/2021

Planning underway to overhaul CBE lab space in Engineering Hall

Written By: Jason Daley

Chemical and biological engineering majors spend lots of time in the lab, and anyone who has graduated from UW-Madison in the last half century is intimately familiar with the instructional space in the basement of Engineering Hall currently known as B103. Not only is it where students in many lab courses gather during the fall and spring semesters, it’s the home of Summer Lab, the intensive capstone experience that turns undergrads into true chemical engineers.

B103 has served its purpose well, but it’s time for a complete makeover. That’s why the department has developed a design that will transform the area into a modern, flexible, welcoming and state-of-the-art space for CBE undergraduate laboratory instruction.

Rendering of new labThe plan renovates and modernizes B103, centering this large open space around a clerestory that floods the basement lab with natural light, and includes new lighting, windows, floors and storage space. Flexible utility dropdowns and moveable benches will allow more space for the experimental rigs used in the required CBE 324 transport lab, a key course for undergraduates.

Rooms radiating from the central lab space will provide access to specialized analytical instruments, chemical fume hoods, computers and meeting areas. Glass partitions will maintain the open feeling of the lab and allow for safe observation of experiments. The design aims to provide an open and inviting area for experimentation and collaboration, one that is readily adaptable to changing instructional needs.

Additionally, the project adds roughly 4,500 square feet of lab space by completely gutting and redoing the adjacent underused room, B209. Because B209 is a high-bay room, it’s the perfect spot to install large equipment such as distillation and humidification towers, solvent extraction units, packed-bed reactors, heat exchangers and membrane filtration units.

New lighting, windows and floors will provide the finishing touches to convert B209 into a “hard hat” workspace, allowing students to gain hands-on experience with pilot-plant-scale equipment. Adjacent rooms will be repurposed for instructor use and student meeting space and will also include a gallery for visitors.

The plan also calls for a redevelopment of the dark and cluttered hallway between B103 and B209. The hall would include updated restrooms, brighter lighting, collaboration areas where students and faculty can gather together and dedicated wall space to display some of CBE’s storied history.

The vision is laid out in an advanced planning study commissioned by the department. Making it a reality by the proposed grand opening—Summer Lab 2023—is the department’s goal. “The faculty and staff who teach our lab classes are a dedicated group who provide a fantastic, rigorous education to our talented and hardworking students. They deserve to work and learn in a modern, attractive space. I am incredibly excited about seeing this project through to completion,” says R. Byron Bird Department Chair Regina Murphy.


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