$50M Total Renovation of Parsons Hall Underway


Parsons Hall is now almost forty-five years old. It is the last of the four College of Engineering and Physicals Sciences (CEPS) buildings to undergo renovation or replacement as part of the KEEP (Knowledge Education Economy Program) funded by the State of New Hampshire. The main impetus for renovation of Parsons Hall was the necessity for total replacement of its HVAC system (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning). It became apparent almost immediately that new hoods, air conditioning, new regulations concerning water use, and twenty-first century safety and access practices required a total interior renovation with some relatively minor modifications to the exterior.

Renovated Parsons Hall will look essentially the same as it does presently when viewed from Academic Way (north side of the building) as well as from the east. Relatively minor, yet significant changes will be visible from McDaniel Drive (south side of the building) and from the west side of the building. At the juncture of the west and southwest (west part of “G wing”) sections, a small three-story structure- informally known as the “southwest knuckle” is close to completion as this piece is being written. Its purpose is to supply power to the west and south wings in the renovated building. An extra bonus will be space on the first floor for students to meet as well as space for a UNH chemistry museum-like display. In addition, the unsightly, non-functioning solar cells will be completely removed from the roof of south wing and replaced by a smaller passive solar water-heating system. Much to our joy, the entire roof of Parsons Hall will be replaced. There will be two “main entrances” to Parsons Hall- the traditional Iddles entrance as well as the new Southwest entrance.

The Department of Chemistry aspires to expand to eighteen tenured/tenure-track faculty and the renovated building is designed to accommodate these faculty in addition to Chemistry Department lecturers, research laboratories and an instructional lab in Materials Science, interdisciplinary research in Polymer Science, the University Instrumentation Center, a research lab and an instructional lab for Chemical Engineering, the Joan and James Leitzel Center for Science, Engineering and Mathematics Education, and the Chemistry Library, still housed in the Iddles section.

The interior of renovated Parsons Hall will look vastly different today’s appearance. That comfortable feeling during June through August will be air conditioning. Faculty offices will be smaller and graduate student/post-doctoral desks will be moved out of the laboratories into adjacent sections designed for monitoring experiments while allowing students to safely store reading materials and even safely eat lunch (early breakfast, late dinner or a midnight snack) as they continue their work. To partially compensate for smaller faculty offices, there will be a significant increase in conference spaces in the building. The Department will relinquish its “ownership” of the basement-level Iddles L1 for a high-tech classroom in the well-illuminated west wing. West wing is also the location for chemical education faculty. A Computational Chemistry laboratory will also be located in this wing. Hoods will be six-foot energy-efficient models without cup sinks. Cooling via condensers will employ closed-loop house water to save on water use and minimize the possibility for accidental input of chemicals into the aquifer. The undergraduate instructional laboratories will be completely reconfigured in an efficient and inviting manner in the section where they are presently located (southeast wing). The University Instrumentation Laboratory (including the Robert and Gloria Lyle NMR Center) will be given high prominence on the first floor of the west wing, which will also be the new location of the Chemistry Department office. Likewise, the Grady EPR Laboratory will be housed on the first floor of the north wing. Organic chemistry and inorganic chemistry research labs will occupy the second floor of the north and west wings and a part of the southwest wing. Advanced undergraduate labs will be situated in the southwest wing. Physical chemistry research space is on the first floor of the southwest wing and analytical chemistry research will be on the second floor of this wing. 

Iddles Hall is also undergoing some renovation. This includes reconfiguring the interior of the library for efficiency and for student study space. In addition, a student study room will be built in the Iddles lobby, directly connected to the library. There will be an elevator installed in Iddles along with various accommodations to help students, staff and faculty with disabilities.

As you might imagine, the logistics for renovating a “living and working” building on a campus with very little swing space are truly complex. Construction on the West Wing begins in Summer/Fall 2011. Upon completion, the Chemistry office and the UIC will move directly from North wing into their final locations as will a number of organic and inorganic research labs. Renovation of the Southeast (instructional) wing will occur during May through August, 2011. North wing construction starts January, 2012 and completion of Southwest wing in December, 2012. During this process inhabitants of Parsons will be moving around the building or jumping to temporary space in other buildings. Professors Seitz and Tomellini, and the associated undergraduate laboratory space for quantitative analysis as well as instrumental analysis, will be located in Spaulding Hall for the duration of the project. Meg Greenslade’s research labs along with the undergraduate physical chemistry lab, will be located in Hewitt Annex. Hewitt Annex will also temporarily house along with Materials Science faculty research labs as well as the metallurgy teaching lab. Moves within the building will also occur.

The amount of work and discomfort will be quite significant. But the external engineering/architecture and construction management firms have been excellent and have been matched by their UNH counterparts. Despite the inevitable glitches and misunderstandings, we will be able to “party together” when the project is completed.