Greener Science


View from the 4th floor of the new Science Center. — Photo by: Stephen Weigel

By: Whitney de  Valroger Managing Editor

View from the 4th floor of the new Science Center. -- Photo by: Stephen Weigel

Green is the new black.  It seems that everywhere you look, there are hints of more environmentally conscious living. Local farming and organic markets are now competing in the food industry.  At Montgomery College, you can see the many blue receptacles scattered around campus to promote bottle recycling.   MC is proud to finally open its doors to their new testament of green forward thinking, the Rockville campus Science Center, a building 16 years in the making.

Any student who attended a class at Rockville since the summer of 2009 is no stranger to the site of construction vehicles and dirt lots on the south end of the campus.  Though the sight of barren lots and the sound of heavy machinery was not the most appeasing, the end result is; a structure that combines both modern design beauty and scientific education functionality.

The project originated several years ago, with plans for its development originating in the 1990’s. “We started talking about renovating the building 16 years ago,” said Vice President and Provost of the Rockville campus Judy Ackerman.  After many years of planning, construction finally broke ground in February of 2009.

Montgomery College Vice President Dr. Judy Ackerman and Instructional Dean for Science Engineering & Math Eun-Woo Chang, in front of the solar panels that help power the new science center and Montgomery College's Rockville campus. -- Photo by Stephen Weigel

The building itself is a testament to a new wave of green thinking.  Several aspects of the new construction incorporate green strategies from solar panels on the roof to a giant ceiling fan that is used to circulate air through the entire building.  Presented on the walls of the interior of the center are large screen monitors displaying different information about the various uses of energy throughout the building.  All these features are in hopes to earn an outstanding certification from the L.E.E.D program.

L.E.E.D, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building certification program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). USGBC’s mission is to help shape new constructions of buildings and communities that promote a healthier and a more environmentally conscientious approach while improving the quality of life for future generations.

The atrium of Montgomery College's new Science Center. -- Photo by: Stephen Weigel

To be awarded a certification rating, the building must undergo an extensive evaluation to assess different aspects of its green performance.  There are many different areas in which these are evaluated, from the building water efficiency, the indoor environmental quality and the materials used in the construction.  These and other factors must be taken into account and are given a point value.  These points are then added up and a grade is given to the structure.  The ratings range from certified, the lowest of the certifications, to silver, gold and finally, platinum, the most prestigious.  An unofficial prediction of a gold rating has been projected for the building.

The new science center at Montgomery College's Rockville campus. -- Photo by: Stephen Weigel

The building itself is a 140,000-plus square foot establishment equipped with state-of-the-art equipment furnishing its various labs.  Spanning four floors, the center boasts 29 individual labs in the many different scientific disciplines taught at MC including biology, chemistry and geoscience.  Each floor also hosts various classrooms and computer labs, as well as a quiet study room filled with useful literature for research.  The equipment provided in the labs is highly advanced, from high definition microscopes accompanied with HD projectors to various incubators and autoclave units.

The staff office area is open to all and the many windows hide little from the students.  In fact the design of the entire building has a very open and exposed feel to it.  Classrooms and labs are brimming with windows that students can peer through.  Walls of glass are all that separate the halls from the many labs.  “One thing I really wanted to do was to build a kind of community for the staff and students,” said Eun-Woo Chang, the Instructional Dean of Science, Engineering and Mathematics.

Instructional Dean for Science Engineering & Math Eun-Woo Chang explains the latest technology available at the new Montgomery College science center to college Vice President Judy Ackerman. -- Photo by: Stephen Weigel

The transparent design encourages open relationships between student and faculty.  Located on each floor is a lounge area, a gathering space furnished with an assortment of lounge chairs and high top tables where students can relax and socialize before class.  It has a familiar coffee shop feel to it, minus the caffeine.  Although there are no gourmet coffee dispensers in the area, it is a modest dream of the Dean to one day open a coffee stand just outside between the Science Center and Science East buildings.

The new science building is just the beginning in transforming the Rockville campus’ science department.  With the new Science Center now open for business, renovation for the existing Science East and West will commence shortly.  The building will be closed at the start of the semester for asbestos removal and the actual renovation is slated to begin in January 2012.  An estimated completion date for Science East is projected for fall of 2013 with renovations for Science West to begin immediately after its opening.

Montgomery College Vice President Dr. Judy Ackerman and Instructional Dean for Science Engineering & Math Eun-Woo Chang, in the atrium of the new science center at Montgomery College's Rockville Campus. -- Photo by: Stephen Weigel

The opening of a brand new building is a momentous occasion for MC Rockville.  The Science Center provides much needed lab space and updated science equipment for the many students attending MC.  Exhibiting a very modern exterior while showcasing state-of-the-art equipment, the Science Center exemplifies the marriage of beauty and technology.  The dedication ceremony for the new building is schedule for Friday, September 23, which is open for the public to attend.