Engineering makes science and research possible at PSU

Engineering is all about making real, legitimate upgrades to some part of the world. Whether it’s increasing the awesome somewhere, or helping to decrease the suck someplace else—and both are truly virtuous deeds—it’s always about making an improvement. And that improvement always has a purpose.

When construction was just getting started on SB2. Those red pipes weren't there before.

One of PSU’s science buildings, once simply named “Science Building 2,” was built in 1971. Back then, it was pretty much state of the art. A little over a decade later in 1982, it was renovated to be kept up-to-date. But since then, it hadn’t been touched.

A 30-year-old science building isn’t quite appealing. Not just because of worn-out floor tiles or dusty ceilings, but because the equipment is out of date, and the efficiency of the place is only as good as it was three decades ago. In other words, much less efficient than a new building would be.

Well, PSU calculated that it would cost about $130 million to completely rebuild the place, but only about $45 million to completely renovate it again. The latter of those prices is a lot more doable for a big university. And so, they did it.

Thanks to skilled engineers working at IDC Architects, Brightworks, Research Facilities Design, Degenkolb Engineers, Northwest Engineering Services, and of course many PSU folks involved in the project, the building got a huge upgrade. These are all people who may have gone into this building to get the education they’re now using to fix the place up. Talk about a return on investment.

Oh, so shiny. A lot of the upgrades were underground or between the walls.

Now, the newly named Science Research & Teaching Center is LEED gold, which is always a plus; this renovation is supposed to save PSU about $400,000 a year in energy costs. They’re using geothermal energy, with large underground tubes for air to pass through, which helps regulate temperature. On top of that, there are only four rooftop fans rather than the very very many fans (basically one for each of the 200 chemistry fume vents) they had previously.

SRTC is the home of the following:

  • Intel Environmental Science Teaching Laboratory — fosters graduate students working with agencies, consulting, engineering firms and manufacturers.
  • Center for Life In Extreme Environments — The grant-funded lab explores life in underseas volcanoes, hot springs, urban environments and other extreme settings.
  • McDougall Center — The center is equipped to link natural science research with computational mathematics.
  • PGE Foundation Renewable Energy Lab — The lab explores research on renewable energy, including development of new polymer-based technology for the solar industry.
  • Rippey Organic Chemistry Teaching Lab — The lab serves chemistry and health students preparing for admission to Oregon Health & Science University.
  • Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank and Plant Conservation Program — The building serves as the new home to the Berry Botanical Garden collection, a protected repository of seeds from rare and endangered native plants.

Check out the PSU report on the upgrade and read about the people who worked on it at You can also check out the IDC Architects page on the project. They’ve got a good news article about the engineering success of the renovation.

If you’re still in high school, you yourself might end up using SRTC if you got to PSU for your engineering degree. This most recent renovation is expected to increase the lifespan of the building by around 40 years, but it might need an upgrade sooner. How quaint would that be, if you wound up working the next upgrade yourself…


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