Price of Rutgers Science Renovation Rises by $3 Million

The Waksman Institute of Microbiology on Rutgers' Busch Campus.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — When Rutgers University approved the $6 million addition to its prominent Waksman Institute of Microbiology in 2015, school officials believed the building could hold a new, third floor.

But that wasn’t true. A professional working on behalf of Rutgers found that $3 million in additional work would need to be done to make that happen, according to Joachim Messing, director of the Busch Campus-based institute.

That’s one reason why Rutgers’ Board of Governors recently voted to amend the budget and work plan for the addition to the Waksman Institute. Rather than adding a roughly 7,400-square-foot third floor, the university signed off to build a 10,500-square-foot structure next to the building, totaling $9 million, or roughly the same as the initial plan, according to Rutgers.

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The three-story addition will include a new entrance, wet and dry laboratory space, private offices, a conference room with a kitchenette and administrative support spaces, according to university documents. The top two floors will measure roughly 6,000 square feet and house researchers, Messing said, while the ground level will mostly accommodate “shelf space” but can be converted into laboratories.

Initial plans called for a third floor to be built atop the Braun laboratory, one of several wings in the institute. As amended, the project is now slated to be constructed near a newer wing.

The university revised its plans after “further deliberation and study,” according to school documents. Officials found that construction would displace a number researchers, including one of the institute’s “most productive,” Messing said.

“We couldn’t really implement this without hardship on one of our principal investigators,” Messing told TAPinto New Brunswick, “therefore, we came up with an alternative solution.”

The institute director cited the need for continued research as the chief cause of the pivot.

Waksman researchers study molecular genetics. Teams research the genetic code of E. coli, yeast, animal systems and even plants like sorghum and tobacco.

Messing has recently secured the money for a second endowed chair in molecular genetics. That means whoever fills the position will have guaranteed funding to research whatever the institute decides, unlike many scientists who must narrow their interests to fit the requirements of government grants.

Such employees typically require 3,000 square feet of space, Messing said. That number is the size difference between the original plan and what’s now expected to be built.

“You must make it attractive,” Messing said. “To get that person to move here to Rutgers, you must offer good laboratory space and a good startup package.”

The Waksman Institute of Microbiology was built in 1954. Rutgers added a second floor in 1998, which was paid for by rent payments from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and was supposed to support the future construction of a third floor.

Asbestos was also used to build parts of the institute, Messing said. That factored into the recent decision to amend plans for a renovation.

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