UI’s Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories to receive $4 million in renovations

The decades-old Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories building is having its weather barrier replaced for a budgeted $4 million.


Matt Sindt

A blue tarp is seen on the Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories on March 21, 2023.

Jack Moore , News Reporter

The Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories at the University of Iowa will see significant renovations in the coming months.

The estimated $4 million construction project plans to address the weather barrier that sits behind the luminescent metal panels that decorate the building. The renovations are expected to be completed in September by the contractor Portzen Construction based in Dubuque, Iowa.

Located at 205 N. Madison St., the Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories hosts several Iowa Technology Institute labs, such as the Atmospheric and Environmental research lab, Laser Materials Processing lab, and the Guymon Research Group.

The total budget for this project is $4.1 million, but the anticipated cost of construction is $2.15 million. The $4.1 million budget comes from the larger $56.2 million that the state Board of Regents gave to the UI.

The project’s funding is part of a $56.2 million budget approved by the regents in September 2022 for UI capital projects. The remaining fund will be allocated to four other capital projects intended to benefit UI laboratories and replace UIHC equipment and generators.

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The weather barrier replacement is one of three projects the UI is working on at the Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories. Others include replacing the transfer switches to the building’s generator and installing a new HEPA filtration system in room 290.

Excluding the weather barrier replacement, these two projects are estimated to cost a combined $117,383.

UI Public Relations Manager Steve Schmadeke wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan the building would receive an update on the building envelope components, which include metal panels, insulation, skylights, and weather protection materials.

Over time, the building has had water and weather infiltration issues that caused internal damage. The project seeks to remedy this infiltration by replacing the weather barrier behind the metal panels.

Mike Kearns, UI associate director of design and construction, said most of what is being replaced is the air and vapor barrier behind the metal panels. The barrier keeps air and vapor from reaching the inside of the building, keeping it dry.

Kearns said the metal panels would also be replaced because it is more cost-effective than putting the old ones back on. When the panels are taken off, they may experience bending or other damage, making it cheaper to replace the panels.

The Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories was established in 1992 and designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. Gehry has gone on to design buildings around the world, such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Biomuseo in Panama City, and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain.

Kearns explains that the building has a laboratory core similar to other labs in traditional stone-clad buildings. The more unique architectural aspects of the building are contained in the faculty office areas, Kearns said.

With the unique exterior aspects of the building and construction procedures, Kearns wants to remind students to respect safety barriers and fences that are put up by the contractors working on the construction.

“The contractors do a great job of putting up fences and making sure we’ve got barricades and things in place… we always ask [students] to keep their eyes open and really make sure that they don’t enter, even accidentally enter a construction area,” Kearns said.