A Peek Inside Duffield Hall

April 24, 2003
By Marc Zawel
Sun Managing Editor

On a snowy afternoon yesterday, The Sun had the opportunity to get an exclusive preview of Duffield Hall, the building that will serve as the future home of Cornell’s nanotechnology center.

Once completed in 2004, Duffield Hall will house the Cornell Nanofabrication Facility (CNF), the nation’s oldest federally sponsored nanotechnology center. The center is currently located in the Knight Laboratory.

Duffield Hall will also be used by the Cornell Center for Materials Research and the Nanobiotechnology Center (NBTC).

The Sun’s tour guide, Amy Ritter, project manager of Duffield Hall, said that besides housing the country’s most sophisticated research and teaching facilities for nanotechnology, Duffield Hall will also serve as “more of a public space.”

“The intent is to have people collaborate together here and work,” she said.

All visitors must gear up in the mandatory safety equipment — hard hat, safety goggles and reflective vest, plus signing the appropriate consent forms — before entering the construction site view the “phase one” progress.

According to Ritter, phase one consists of Duffield Hall construction. Ritter hopes that if construction stays on track, CNF can begin moving into Duffield Hall in August of this year. In December, Knight Laboratory is tentatively scheduled to be torn down.

This will make room for the second phase of the project, an atrium connecting Duffield, Phillips and Upson Halls.

The new atrium will “give the engineering school a new heart, or social center, which can be used as a year round space that is pretty unique to the Cornell campus,” Dusty Rhoads, principal project designer from the architectural firm Zimmer, Gunsul & Fasca, told The Sun in August.

The first stop of the tour was the second and third floor graduate offices and conference rooms. According to Ritter, these spaces will offer graduate students a comfortable space to work and meet with others.

Next came one of the many second and third floor wet and dry laboratories that line the hallways of Duffield. The labs, featuring desks and work spaces, are also equipped with extensive safety equipment, which includes fire repression and ventilation systems.

“Duffield Hall has the latest security systems,” commented Ritter. Access to office space and laboratories is limited to those with key cards, she said.

Adjoining the east wall of Philips Hall, the atrium, whose main entrance will be off of East Ave., will be a visually stunning area for students to congregate. Alcove space along the atrium will allow students quiet places to study and speak, according to Ritter.

The acoustics of the atrium have presented some problems, according to Ritter. “You get a lot of echo and sound,” Ritter said. “We’re seeking to create a space with good sound quality.”

The final stop of the tour was the first floor “clean-rooms,” where extensive precautions have been taken to ensure that the enironment is uncontaminated by an pollutants that could disrupt experiments and research.

“The air in these rooms has been filtered leaving few particulants,” Ritter said. Those working in the clean-rooms will be required to suit up in the togging room, Ritter added. Clean-rooms are also reinforced with fiberglass to protect against sound and electromagnetic fields while the floor is made of “isolated concrete slabs to ensure that vibrations will not interfere with the equipment,” Ritter said.

The Pew Landscaping Project, which will redesign the Engineering Quad, is set to begin this summer, according to Ritter. “The transformation over the summer will surprise many students when they return [in the fall],” Ritter said. Boulders and plantings have been included in the design “to bring a gorge feel into the quad.”

With this, The Sun’s tour of Duffield Hall and a revamped Engineering Quad was complete. Hard hat, safety goggles and vest were removed while between 100 and 150 construction workers continued to progress towards completion in 2004.

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