The transformation of the Mechanical Laboratory, one of the first buildings constructed on the Rice campus, into Maxfield Hall is well underway.
Also nearing completion is construction of the Rice National Security Research Accelerator in Dell Butcher Hall.
The renovation of Maxfield Hall is scheduled for completion in May 2021, with faculty, staff and students moving in that summer. The building will serve as the new home for the Department of Statistics, which is now housed in Duncan Hall.
“Over the spring semester and early summer, we completed relocation of the building occupants to new spaces,” said Tina Hicks, a senior project manager with the Rice Facilities, Engineering and Planning department.
The Mech Lab previously housed offices for the mechanical engineering, and civil and environmental engineering departments, and the Chao Center for Asian Studies. The project is now in the demolition phase.
The building’s exterior will remain unchanged except for the new stair enclosure additions on the north side and the new accessible entrance on the south side .
The interior will be reconfigured with two new registrar classrooms, faculty and staff offices, a medium-sized conference room and huddle rooms.
Robert and Katherine Maxfield and the Maxfield Foundation committed $5 million to the renovation. Robert Maxfield earned his B.A. and B.S. in electrical engineering from Rice in 1963 and 1964 respectively. He and three other Rice graduates — Gene Richeson ’62, Ken Oshman ’62 and Walter Loewenstern ’59 — co-founded ROLM Corp.
“We received the Texas Historic Commission’s approval on the building's nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. This paves the way for our eventual receipt of the historic tax credit for rehabilitation of the building,” Hicks said.
The Rice National Security Research Accelerator on the fourth floor of Dell Butcher Hall will house research associated with the agreement reached last year between Rice and the Army. The five-year, $30-million cooperative agreement is for development of advanced materials and next-generation networks.
“We completed construction this summer and installed new furniture for the offices. Now we’re in the process of receiving and making connections to the new research equipment,” Hicks said. “Once that is completed, the equipment installation engineers will come to Rice to make final connections and perform the start-up.”
The collaborative research undertaken by Rice and the Army Research Laboratory will develop next-generation wireless networks and radio frequency electronics for use in intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance.