Will Faculty Sacrifice to Create Swing Space?

The first question higher education architects and planners ask when faced with a space problem is “does the campus have a swing space?” The answer is usually, “Are you kidding?” and then, the only alternative is new construction. Few campuses have an inventory of swing space to house a program while a building is being renovated, or torn down and replaced on the same site.

At UNC Chapel Hill, faculty from different science departments teamed up to allow a new physical sciences building to have two lives. Chapman Hall was completed in 2004 and was initially used as swing space for Marine Science faculty, for four years. Later it was re-occupied by the ultimate end user – the Physics Department. It is rare to see a building that was planned as a physics addition serve as the interim home to 20 faculty from the Marine Science department. This solution was not difficult in terms of scope or budget.



During the early workshop process, we proposed Chapman Hall to be a multi-disciplinary building that could house damp/wet research (Marine Biology/Geo Chemistry) and later be converted to dry research (Physics) space.  The premium for having this feature was the inclusion of wet services of a damp lab, combined with the additional electrical power of a dry lab, plus the moving cost and minor refit of the labs to convert them to dry labs.

Using a 2-step approach, Marine Science moved into the new Venable & Murray Halls building on the same site as their original structure, after a four-year stint in the Chapman Hall Physics Building. Eight years later, Physics backfilled into space originally designed for them. This unique move, while saving the University the cost of swing space, came about through factors such as:

  1. A multidisciplinary core team of faculty to review and select alternatives; the resulting discussion led to a collaborative solution.
  2. The use of convertible dry-damp-wet lab design, which produced a modular layout that served the needs of both Marine Science and Physics.

The next time you see a new building in t­he planning stages ask, “Can the new building serve as swing space for a future move, and then house its ultimate occupant?”


Concept Program – 2001
Swing Building, Chapman Hall – Occupied 2004
Marine Science Building, Venable Hall –  Demolished 2006
New Marine Science Building, Venable & Murray Halls – Occupied 2009
Physics Backfill in Chapman Hall – 2010

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