University of Arizona Chemistry Building Renovations and Additions

  • Location:

    Tucson, Arizona

  • Client:

    University of Arizona

  • Construction Value:


  • Delivery Method:

    Progressive Design-Build

  • Year Completed:


  • Specialties:

    Higher Education

Features & Highlights

  • 55,000-square-foot historic renovation and new three-story, 23,000-square-foot structure
  • Adding flexible, collaborative classrooms and state-of-the-art research facilities
  • Phased construction around active classroom use, in the middle of an occupied campus
  • Green building targeting LEED Silver® status
Project Overview

The UArizona Chemistry-Physics building, now affectionately called “Old Chem,” was one of five buildings Sundt constructed on campus in the late 1930s funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Designed by the late Tucson architect Roy Place, the Chemistry-Physics building was originally a two-story red brick structure with two main entrances. Sundt also added an additional east wing and south wing in 1948.

In 2021, we began a complete renovation of the 55,000-square-foot building, as well as new construction of an adjacent three-story, 23,000-square-foot building called The Commons. Between these two structures, Sundt is adding new offices, state-of-the-art research facilities and seven new classrooms, ranging from 30 to 200 seats. The renovated and new spaces will feature new technology and flexible seating arrangements designed to increase student engagement.

For the renovation process, we phased construction and communicated daily with UArizona staff to work around occupied offices and classrooms with minimal disruptions, and turn over finished spaces with smooth transitions. Our project team had to work closely with mechanical, electrical and plumbing partners to locate utilities and perform necessary upgrades in a safe and timely manner. Crews also relocated a machine shop and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) space, while ensuring uninterrupted power to the NMR machines for continuous operation.

“After a thorough preconstruction phase, construction began after Sundt successfully bought a Guaranteed Maximum Price within our budget despite an extremely volatile and escalating market. The construction site is in the middle of campus, landlocked, and constrained and Sundt managed to carefully complete the demolition portion without disruption to ongoing operations, classes, and research in the immediate area. Ongoing renovation and additions work is also occurring with very minimal disruption and without unexpected impacts. This high quality and value work that Sundt provides certainly qualifies them for additional work at the University of Arizona.”

Peter Dourlein, Associate VP, Planning, Design & Construction, University of Arizona



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