Renovations of Gilmer Hall, Chemistry Building to finish in 2021

The project will correct safety and structural concerns, add new classrooms


Since opening their doors in the 1960s, the design and maintenance of the Gilmer and Chemistry buildings was significantly out of date, prompting the University to have the buildings assessed. 

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

Renovations to the Chemistry Building and Gilmer Hall are in the works and are expected to be completed in 2021. Construction on the Chemistry Buildings began last year and will be followed by work on Gilmer Hall. According to a major projects status report released by the University in September 2017, the total budget for the Gilmer and Chemistry Building renovations is $186.8 million. The architectural firm Perkins + Will was hired by the University to oversee the operations. 

The two buildings have been a presence at the University for over 50 years — Gilmer Hall was designed in 1961-63 and the Chemistry Building opened its doors in 1968. The Chemistry Building is host to the chemistry department, which includes offices and labs for both undergraduate and graduate students. Gilmer Hall contains the biology and psychology departments, as well as several research facilities.

Colette Sheehy, the University’s senior vice president for operations, said in an  email to The Cavalier Daily that Gilmer Hall renovations will take place after the completion of work on the Chemistry Building.

“The total project cost is $186.8 million with the majority funded by the state and about $47 million to be raised privately by the College of Arts and Sciences,” Sheehy said. “Construction began a year ago and the building is not being torn down. Renovations to Gilmer will follow the work in Chemistry.”

Sheehy also confirmed that planning for renovations to the Physics Building at the University has begun.

“The University is in the process of interviewing and selecting an architect for the Physics Building renovation,” Sheehy said. “The state has approved the planning phase and the University will request construction funding in 2019.” 

After several decades, the design and maintenance of the old Gilmer Hall and Chemistry Building were significantly out of date, prompting the University to have the buildings assessed. WDP & Associates, a consulting engineering firm that has an office in Charlottesville, provided an initial assessment and renovation of the buildings to address exterior damages, structural issues and unsafe conditions in the building. Some of the many issues that were addressed and corrected included the repair of concrete structural members, fixing unstable screen walls and the stabilization of the veneer on Gilmer’s south side, which was discovered had the potential to fall.

After these repairs were made, the University solicited a full renovation of Gilmer Hall and the Chemistry Building, eventually hiring Perkins + Will as the lead architectural firm. The budget for this contract is $120 million, according to the WDP & Associates summary.

The renovations are meant to update all mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in both buildings to make the current system modern and energy-efficient. The departments of biology, chemistry and psychology are scheduled to undergo 300,000 gross square feet of renovations and redesigns to ensure maximum utilization of space. The exterior masonry and glazing of Gilmer Hall will be upgraded and modernized to enable a watertight and energy-efficient building, which will include waterproofing of roof surfaces and more. There will also be the addition of four new general-assignment classrooms to be built in the space under the Chemistry terrace.

The first renovations in this project have begun and are currently being surveyed for construction. New fire sprinklers and fire pumps are being installed in the Chemistry and Chemistry Annex fire suppression. Work on these installations in lab areas will occur after hours so as not to interfere with class work. 

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