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New Bio Building is On Schedule, Budget

By Ramy Arnaout
Staff Reporter

Construction of the new biology building is going well, according to John D. Macomber, president of George B. H. Macomber Co., the company constructing the new building.

"MIT assembled a good team of owner representatives, architects, and contractors," Macomber said. The $70 million building is currently under budget and on schedule, he said.

In addition, Ames Street is expected to reopen on schedule by Dec. 1, after the completion of the underground tunnel connecting the new building and Building E19, according to Francis A. Lawton, special assistant to the senior vice president and project manager for the new building at MIT.

Construction crews have finished laying down sewer lines, fiber-optic cable, gas lines, and water lines, Lawton said. They have also poured the first casing of concrete for the wall of the tunnel, he added.

The Ames Street tunnel is one of two tunnels connecting the biology building to existing buildings; the other tunnel will connect to Building 66.

Research biologists from Buildings 16, 18, 56, E17, E25, and the Center for Cancer Research are scheduled to move into the new building by April 1994, according to Lawton.

Site work for the project began in summer of 1991, and construction began later that fall.

The biology building is "an advanced, state-of-the-art facility, built to accommodate the needs of today and tomorrow," Macomber said.

"MIT went way out of its way to prepare for the future" in regards to the new biology building, Macomber said.

The interior of the building was customized around the equipment and layout required for cutting-edge research. But as more modern equipment becomes available, and as faculty members come and leave, the building's final plans have had to be reworked.

"We fully understood that there might be changes in the faculty," Lawton said. "You design for one person and redesign for the next person in line." This process is part of the course of any construction, whether it be for a biology building or otherwise, he said.

There were also some problems with the physical construction of the building. "Initially we had problems with the soil. The clay [was] not quite as stiff as we thought it was," Lawton said.

The moisture in the clay is due to the high water table, which is about 10 feet down, Lawton said. This is because the land was once covered in water. "At one time there used to be docks all the way up to Main Street," Lawton said.

Building 66 is simply "a large concrete boat" sitting on a slab of concrete about five feet thick, Lawton said. The new biology building is built similarly, with no piles in its foundation.

Old faces, new building

George B. H. Macomber Co., established in 1904, has taken six projects at MIT, including Rotch Library, Building E17, and the Martin Mechanical Institute for Engineering Design in Building 3.

The architects of the new building, Goody, Clancy, and Associates, have also done previous work for MIT, including designing the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and major renovations for the Center for Cancer Research.

The new biology building has no other name yet, although "If you're willing to give $50 million, we'll name it after you," Lawton said.

The missing name should not trouble students and staff, however. The building has been assigned its number -- Building 68.