CLC's Science Building is ready for start of classes Tuesday
The curtain will rise Tuesday on College of Lake County's long-awaited new Science Building, just in time for students to begin spring semester classes.
What they will find is a modern, energy-efficient building that's a big step up from the old digs.
The difference will be clear to all who wander by the first floor of the building and peek inside the large mechatronics lab that combines electrical and mechanical engineering.
Margie Porter, who heads the mechatronics program, said students will learn on equipment similar to what is used in the real world, including two programmable robots, conveyor belts and other high-tech machines.
"Our students are going to replace the baby boomers in industry," Porter said.
Next door, students will fire lasers used to cut or engrave materials.
"This is cutting-edge equipment that we have here," said Facilities Director Mike Welch, who led a tour of the building Friday.
The second and third floors house general science labs that feature new equipment, natural light and more space for students to work. By comparison, some of the old labs were windowless and cramped.
"I would get headaches after five minutes in the old labs," sophomore nursing student Emily Drummond said after her tour. "The light in the new building is softer."
The lab's wide windows actually were a main reason the building didn't open in time for the fall semester as planned. Last summer, the construction team discovered windows along the south walls were leaking water. Workers had to remove several exterior metal panels so they could access the space above the windows and use a liquid paste membrane to fill the cracks.
Now the windows are in tiptop shape and, like many features of the building, were made with an eye toward low energy consumption. Welch said the windows are designed so that in the winter, when the sun is lower on the horizon, sunshine will illuminate and warm the labs. During the summer, the sun will be high enough that its light will be shielded by screens to reduce the temperature naturally.
Another way the building naturally regulates its temperature is by using geothermal wells. Massive pumps on the building's fourth floor draw ground water from deep wells up into pipes. Welch said the ground water is always around 55 degrees, helping warm the building in the winter and cool it during the summer.
Those features, along with 187 solar panels and a 1,500-square-foot green roof that reduces rainwater runoff, have drawn the attention of environmental groups that have showered CLC with awards. In June, it received the Emerald Award for Building Innovation from the Illinois chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. CLC has won three other environmental awards in the last two years.
The building's earlier delays were mostly related to the state's fiscal woes. The plan was for the building to be ready in July 2016, but the state's financial problems delayed the start of work. Just as work began, it was halted again when the budget-less state stopped projects July 1, 2015.
The project is expected to cost about $29.9 million, with CLC paying roughly $12.4 million and the Illinois Capital Development Board contributing about $17.5 million. The price also includes the cost of renovating the old science labs.