The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will begin moving into the Science and Engineering Complex in Allston during the first week of November after the complex obtained its Certificate of Occupancy last week.
The long delayed move-in process will continue into February 2021. The SEC’s conception and construction has spanned almost three decades. Though work on the complex paused in the spring as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the SEC is now projected to open for undergraduate student access in time for the 2021-2022 academic year.
The research operations of SEAS faculty have been in flux over the past year due to the on-and-off progress of the SEC, SEAS spokesperson Paul Karoff said. Starting this summer, SEAS faculty have worked through a lab reboot process in accordance with University health guidelines, with labs now filled at 50 percent density.
“Come November, they’re going to have to start to pack up these very sophisticated laboratory spaces, and then they’ll be moved to the SEC, and they’ll have to unpack and set them up in an entirely new space,” Karoff said. “But the good news is, it's a new space that they – those faculty and PIs — designed themselves. It’s custom-built for their needs and long-term goals.”
The move into the SEC will be carried out in waves: One wave will enter the building each week, according to Karoff. Larger experimental groups and staff will kick off the move-in, and theory labs will join in the fourth wave.
Aside from logistics, Karoff also highlighted the significance of considering signage and naming around the building, calling it a priority for the SEAS Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging this year.
“It runs the gamut from making sure that public restrooms are labeled and signed in an appropriate way to making sure that the spaces themselves are accessible to all too,” Karoff said. “Things like portraiture and artwork on the walls and ensuring that they are representative, that they both do two things really, in the case of Harvard — that they honor and respect the historical, intellectual traditions of the place, but that they also are inclusive and welcoming.”
Still, Karoff said plans for the SEC are still contingent upon Harvard’s approach to the spring term more broadly.
“The wild card, what we don't know, obviously, is what spring will hold vis-a-vis students returning,” Karoff said. “That decision is slated to be made somewhere around the first week of December.”
He also cited one of the specific intentions of the SEC’s architectural design: to encourage social interaction.
“There’s a little bit of an irony that it’s now complete, and we’re in a world where we all have to be socially distanced, conduct our lives on Zoom calls instead of in person,” Karoff said. “When we come back, I’m sure it won’t be flipping a switch back to the before time. It will phase into a different kind of operating style than we used to have.”
—Staff writer Brie K. Buchanan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.