On Campus

Modernizing Darwin

An aging science building gets an extreme makeover

darwin from outsideDarwin Hall at twilight shows off a new beauty of the renovated building.

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Nearly $30 million dollars in state bond and equipment monies flowed into Charles Darwin Hall on the Sonoma State campus last year to reconstruct the aging science building to allow for new ways of teaching students about the mysteries of nature.

“There has been a greater awareness for the need for science and technology  education because of the global challenges we face today,” says Dean of the School of Science and Technology Saeid Rahimi.

“Clearly, to remain competitive in the field of science and technology education, we needed to have the necessary and up-to-date infrastructure.”

Facing the limitations of a building constructed for the natural sciences nearly 40 years ago, the University saw it was not able to provide the kind of support that students in the 21st century now need. Emerging fields of biochemistry and biotechnology, as well as the demands of the computer engineering sciences, required new approaches.

The University now has facilities for undergraduate and graduate students that equals and sometimes outsizes the labs and classrooms of much larger campuses.

“We planned this very carefully so we could respond to the needs of today with the realization that the building must respond to the needs of our students 20 years from now,” says Rahimi.

The passage of propositions 47 and 55 provided the $26.3 million in construction bonds and $3 million in equipment monies.

About 130 of the 190 full-time and part-time faculty, staff and administrators were displaced from Darwin Hall. They huddled in the southwest corner of the University library for 18 months as the building was stripped down to its bones and renovated with safety, energy efficiency and sustainability in mind.

darwin labNew chemistry lab in Darwin Hall

Forty years of equipment and supplies were stashed in places around the campus, put in long-term storage or sold on e-Bay. Classes were reassigned around campus and some were held at the Santa Rosa Junior College.

Built in 1967 at the height of the push to get more students into science, Darwin Hall became “a prisoner of its time,” says senior engineer Keith Marchando. “Today we have a building that can change with the demands of the future.”

“We are a building code ahead of ourselves in energy efficiency,” notes Marchando, who says the new building now requires 40% of the energy it once needed for daily operations.

For more on the renovation and the opening day celebration, visit www.sonoma.edu/darwinhall.