Building is set to open soon


Matt Churella

Massaro Corp. workers consider their work during July construction of the John P. Murtha Engineering and Science building’s chemical enginnering addition. The construction was to be finished by Jan. 1, but campus officials have said that it will wrap up soon.

Rachel Logan, Copy Editor

The chemical engineering building is to open around the end of January, according to Finance and Administration Vice President Amy Buxbaum. 

Buxbaum said last week that workers from the contracted construction company, Massaro Corp. of Pittsburgh, were finishing sidewalks and interior painting. 

She said the original substantial completion target was Jan. 1.

“We encountered impossible weather in Johnstown for the past six, seven months.” 

Summer rain and quick freezes both slowed the construction process, she said. 

Buxbaum said that, two weeks ago, some heavy equipment got stuck in mud around the building.

Engineering and Computer Science Division Chairman Jerry Samples said that he’s not fretting over delays.

“You can’t walk on steel beams when it’s raining in the summertime,” Samples said.

“There are no classes scheduled to be in there (this semester). We’re focusing on having this done correctly and safely. There’s no occupancy certificate until it’s done right.”

The two-floor, 7,000 square-foot space includes an experimenting laboratory and a classroom/computer simulation lab space. Professor and club offices are also included.

Samples said the lab setup was a different animal than that of building construction.

“Two of seven or eight experiments are in; others are in order and coming. There’s no place for them yet, anyway.”

Samples said that there are about 60 non-freshman chemical engineering students who will be needing access to the lab spaces. 

“We’ve been doing OK with labs,” Samples said. 

Some laboratories so far have required students to be driven to Pitt-Oakland facilities, but comprehensive online simulation software has been used for many others. A software-based Simtronics lab will shift into the building’s computer lab when it opens; there are only a few computers in Blackington Hall with the software, shared among about a dozen students.

Thermodynamics and reactive process labs, which require the multi-purpose lab space, are also to move into the building this semester.

The building project has kept within its $5 million budget.

Buxbaum said Ramesh Singh, the first chemical engineering professor hired for the program, has been involved in the space’s design.

“In (the Simtronics lab), we teach students how to operate and troubleshoot chemical operations,” Singh said. “The Simtronics lab is a virtual lab, and it will stay as it is now.

“In the new building…we will have hands-on experiments covering thermodynamics, chemical separation, reaction engineering and process control.”

Buxbaum said the architects assigned to the project did well to make the new building feel like part of the John P. Murtha Engineering and Science building. The two connect at a stairwell, and she said the existing hallways merge into the new ones.

Not having to build a new stairwell for the building helped the area focus on serving educational purposes, Buxbaum said.

She said she hopes the building can serve as an academic entryway to campus, as it is one of the few buildings to face outward, toward visitors.