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College enters summer construction planning process

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Renovations to Worth Health Center, scheduled for this summer, will reconfigure the interior and affix additions to either end of the building. The changes are rendered in this illustration. (Courtesy of Nancy Nicely)

Jackhammers, nail guns and saws will fill the campus soundscape this summer. Swarthmore is planning a series of construction projects that will update Worth Health Center, Parrish Hall, the Lang performing Arts Center, Hicks Hall and Papazian Hall. The projects are part of the five-year plan, a short term part of the College’s Strategic Plan that is approved year to year by the Board of Managers. The plans for this summer, which have been delayed since the start of the Great Recession, were validated this February.

Worth Health Center

Worth Health Center will receive the most extensive improvements, undergoing what contractors call a “gut renovation,” which will knock out all but the exterior walls and entirely reconfigure the inside of the building. Two additions will be also be attached to either end of the health complex, one for a patient bedroom and the other for additional space for the CAPS mental health program. Health Center Director Beth Kotarski said that the exigencies of modern college health made the reconfiguration necessary. “We do a lot of services that we didn’t do in the sixties,” she said. “It’s time for the update. The flow of care and the way we can staff will be improved — it’s going to change the way we do business.”

Parrish Hall

Many of the shingles on Parrish Hall’s iconic domes date back to a fire that gutted the structure in 1881. These, along with other worn parts including the metalwork and interior woodwork, will be replaced this summer as the domes receive their first repairs since 1982.

The air conditioning system in Parrish will also be revamped, with the current noisy in-window units being replaced by a central air system. The new system will eventually be put in place in the basement and on the first and second floors, but it is not yet decided how much of the project beyond the first floor will be completed this summer.

Lang Performing Arts Center

The Lang Performing Arts Center (LPAC) will be closed this summer to allow for several interior updates, including the addition of handicap-accessible bathrooms to the lower level, new seating in Pearson Hall Theater and a new projection system in the Cinema. Additionally, vestibules will be added to the doors of Pearson Hall to eliminate the pesky flash of light and sound that occurs when stragglers enter the Theater. This design flaw has long bothered Stu Hain, VP for Facilities and Services. “We try to get things right the first time,” he said, “and we usually do. But when we make a mistake, it feels good to correct it.”

LPAC will also receive a new “green roof”. It will become the largest on campus, far outsizing the roofs of Alice Paul and David Kemp dormitories. Adding a green roof, which involves placing soil and vegetation atop a building, reduces energy costs by adding insulation and purifies the rainwater that falls on it.

Hicks Hall

When ABET, an engineering education accreditation organization, told Swarthmore’s engineering department last year that it would lose its accreditation if it failed to update its facilities, renovations to Hicks Hall were vaulted up the list of construction priorities on campus. The renovations planned on Hicks for this summer will bring the engineering department into compliance with ABET as well as improve psychology and biology facilities in the building.

In addition to upgrading the nuts and bolts of laboratory facilities in Hicks, a revamping of study spaces in the building is planned to accommodate student tendencies to work in groups. A new lounge space will be added alongside new robotics and computer labs.

Papazian Hall

Lab space will also be enhanced in Papazian Hall, where lab space will be added on the roof for the psychology department alongside a preexisting lab. The fourth floor of Papazian will also be made more accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Administrators say that these measures to update campus facilities will be paired with an extensive data collection project to identify long-term Strategic Planning goals with regard to facilities. The effort will eventually be turned into a master plan which will “cohesively define how the physical campus will best support the College’s future.” An administration press release discussing the summer construction projects and the early steps of compiling the master plan said the Swarthmore community would be involved in the process.

“There will be numerous opportunities for the community to offer suggestions and feedback as the planning unfolds over the course of the next year,” the release said. “From this planing process, it is imagined that additional facilities projects will result in the creation of new academic and reconfigured community spaces.”

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