Renovations almost finished at Natural History Building

Local News

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – Crews are finishing up a major overhaul on the U of I’s campus.

Several years ago, officials found parts of the Natural History Building were close to falling apart. Since then, the building has received about $70 million in renovations, and students will get to see it all when they start class on Monday.

Starting in 1892, crews built the building in three parts. Things didn’t hold up over time. Our cameras were there when the building was deemed unsafe and evacuated back in 2010. 

“It was pretty much unusable on the inside after decade after decade after decade of configuration, reconfiguration, modification, and then the materials were just decaying,” says Stephen Marshak. He’s a geology professor and the director of the School of Earth, Society and the Environment. The building could not be torn down because it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

“What we learned about 100 years after construction was that it hadn’t been properly constructed and the floors did not have load-bearing strength. So because of the hazard, the university decided to close the building, or at least close the parts of it that were no longer working well,” says Marshak.

University leaders teamed up with architecture firm to revamp everything. The building’s structure had to be overhauled, along with the electricity, plumbing and A/C. The building is now ADA compliant, and the classrooms and labs also got upgrades, which is a big plus for students and professors.

“We had limited capability of what we could do in terms of technology and collaborative learning,” says Carla Caceres, Director of the Department of Integrated Biology.

Now, students will be able to learn in classrooms which encourage teamwork and use new technologies. And while the aesthetics are nice, professors say what’s more important is that these improvements mean more opportunities.

“For the first time in the history of the university we have all of the departments that have interests related to the earth’s system in the same facility … We hope that will improve things for education and also improve our visibility as a research entity in the future,” says Marshak.

The money for the renovations came from a combination of university funds and private donations. They are still trying to raise money, for more information on helping, you can click here.

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