Renovation of Comal Building completed

By: 

Special to the Star

Philosophy and computer science students can expect a newly renovated home now that construction on the Comal Building, formerly the Psychology Building, is complete.

The Psychology Building was completely gutted for renovations in May 2013 and is now the Comal Building. The new building is equipped with energy-saving features and spaces for students and staff to gather, study, relax and interact with one another, said Craig Hanks, chair of the philosophy department.

Comal was built with energy-saving features, which makes it unlike many of the other facilities on campus, Hanks said.

“One of the energy-saving features is that lights in the offices and the classrooms are on timers or motion sensors,” Hanks said. “So if there’s no one in here, this room will go dark.”

Light detection sensors are located on the south side of the building next to the windows that help control light balance by taking natural light into account, he said.

Some of the power outlets in the offices are also on motion sensors so people can plug in non-essential items, like a coffee pot that does not need to stay on all the time, Hanks said.

“It assures that we’re not spending money running devices that no one is using,” Hanks said.

Interactive whiteboards also will serve as “useful tools” in the new facility, said Hongchi Shi, chair of the Computer Science department.

Faculty moved into the energy-efficient building in late July, said Juan Guerra, associate vice president of Facilities.

“The building was actually completed a couple of weeks before (July 21) so we could start to safely move in all the furniture and all the equipment,” Guerra said.

The first floor and half of the second floor of the building belong to the philosophy department and have faculty and graduate assistant offices, seminar rooms, a classroom and a glass-windowed room for the philosophy dialogue series, Hanks said.

The third floor and the other half of the second floor are for the computer science department and have faculty offices, four research labs, a glass-windowed conference room and a server room, Hanks said.

Making the transition into the new building has been “smooth,” Shi said.

“We made the move in the summer,” Shi said. “I think the interruption’s kind of minimal.”

Shi has been chair of the Computer Science department for seven years and began in the Nueces Building.

“(The Nueces Building) was temporary space so after, I think, 12 years or so we moved to this building,” Shi said.

The Comal Building is ready for the fall semester, and classes were held in it Monday.

“I think people will be very happy with the results of the renovations and especially as the students start to use it,” Guerra said. “I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised by how open and well-lit that building is now.”