Buildings on schedule, budget for July opening

Behind the plastic tarps on the North and South Academic buildings lie two sophisticated facilities steadily approaching completion. “We are on target to substantially finish work on both buildings by July, so that faculty can move in August, in time for the new school year,” said Bruce Decoteau, senior project manager of Facilities, adding that the project was within its $34 million budget.

The two buildings are on track to be the College’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified properties, with silver LEED certifications.

Once completed, the North Academic Building will house 100 faculty offices and seven multifunction seminar rooms in its three floors and basement. Its structurally similar but smaller counterpart will accommodate 61 faculty offices and five seminar rooms.

On Monday, the Record was given a tour of the buildings’ sites. In the hour-long tour, the group glimpsed striking facades and wide hallways, as well as the expansive series of now-empty rooms that will house well over a hundred faculty members by next fall.

The buildings’ spaces

The bulk of the floor space in the academic buildings will go to some 161 offices for professors in the humanities and social sciences. Each 160-square foot office will be equipped with light and heat sensors for energy efficiency; room settings will be individually programmed.

Each building will also have administrative offices, copy rooms, printing stations, kitchenettes, gathering areas with couches and an elevator.

The larger North building will house a number of facilities currently located in Stetson, among them the faculty lounge, the faculty mailroom and the secretarial pool. In addition, it will have three TA offices that can accommodate six to eight TAs simultaneously, a state-of-the-art language lab and the College’s first dedicated archaeology lab.

Among the sustainability-oriented features of the buildings are “green roofs,” which will be planted with sedum, a leafy plant, to aid temperature moderation.

A fusion of brick and glass

The main purpose of the plastic sheets has been to maintain a 40-degree minimum temperature for the setting of the brickwork that, together with the extensive glass paneling, will be the hallmark of the Academic Buildings. In addition to lining most exterior walls, the masonry figures prominently in a number of hallways and rooms. For example, a second floor seating area facing a glass curtain wall is flanked by brick walls that create a seamless visual link to the facade. “It’s all about bringing the outside in,” Decoteau said.

As a counterpoint to the rustic brick walls, there is an abundance of sleek glass windows: the curtain wall of the gallery, wide windows in the offices, floor-to-ceiling glass panels at the central circulation stairwells and in some conference rooms, as well as skylights on the third floor.

The windows afford an almost 360-degree view of the surroundings, whether Spring Street, Stetson Hall, Bernhard Music Center or Dodd Circle. Once the Stetson-Sawyer project is completed in 2011, the glass panels will also offer an unobstructed view across the campus green that will fill the space where the current Sawyer Library sits.

Apart from giving the buildings an open feel, the insulated glass panels will allow sunlight to stream into the buildings while minimizing heat loss. The tall glass windows in every third-floor room also decrease the apparent height of the relatively large buildings.

Another prominent aspect of the buildings will be their copper roofs, which will develop an attractive patina over time. These durable “100-year roofs,” while requiring a higher initial outlay, will ultimately be far more cost-effective than standard roofs, which require replacement every few decades. The main entrances will have similar copper paneling, though they will be tinted gray.

Project wrap-up

Earlier into the construction, a delay in the arrival of steel supplies resulted in almost a month of lost time. The delay necessitated a temporary increase in the number of on-site workers from the usual 120 to about 180 and required workers to take Saturday shifts. Nevertheless, the buildings are still slated for completion within the original schedule and budget.

Next in the pipeline is the conversion of Sawyer Library Drive from a construction road to a walkway and emergency road for fire access to the Academic Buildings and the future Stetson-Sawyer complex. Work will commence within the next few weeks. “We’ll keep the pedestrian path open throughout,” Decoteau said, adding that it will be a logistical challenge.

After faculty are relocated from their Stetson offices to the new premises, the Stetson annexes will be searched to ensure the proper removal of hazardous waste, such as asbestos, and subsequently demolished in the fall to make way for the new Sawyer Library.

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