Nich School eyes Gross as new home

The Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences may soon take a large step toward embodying the sustainable lifestyle it teaches.

Pending approval from the Board of Trustees at the end of the month, the Gross Chemistry Laboratory is slated for a greening renovation to become the new site for the Nicholas School, officials said.

Design plans-which are expected to be drafted in the next year-will incorporate sustainable-living principles and result in a completely new look for the building, said Emily Klein, senior associate dean at the Nicholas School, who was involved in talks about the construction.

"We certainly want to make the Nicholas School a showcase in some sense for sustainable design concepts and activities," she said. "We want the building to have a certain what we call 'didacticism' to it."

The new building will house about 190,000 to 200,000 square feet, at a construction cost of approximately $90 to $100 million, Klein said. She added that greening plans include installing water- and energy-saving equipment, bringing sunlight into the building and constructing an add-on that will support a green roof.

"The concept is to have a significantly modified building so that it doesn't look anything like Gross," Klein said.

University Architect John Pearce said if the Board approves the project, architects will work with the Nicholas School in the design phase to set guidelines for the renovation.

"We have been working with sustainable guidelines for quite a few years with our other buildings," he said. "We're going to be utilizing all of our experience plus the experience of our consultants to expand our work in this area."

Klein added that the move is expected to occur in approximately three and a half years, following one year of design and two years of construction.

The Nicholas School is currently spread out in five locations. Klein said the goal of the renovation is to centralize the school on the Durham campus.

Klein added that administrators will be soliciting student input during the design phase of the project.

Eli Lazarus, a third-year graduate student in earth and ocean sciences at the Nicholas School, said the construction plans will be a large step toward unifying the school.

"It's a good move in that if we're going to be a single school of the environment and earth sciences instead of these various divisions, it would help a lot to be under the same roof," Lazarus said. "The most unified you ever see the Nicholas School is on the Web site."


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