College to build outdoor social space, restrooms by Olde Club

The administration and facilities departments are working to renovate the grassy space by Olde Club and the fraternities by building a new small building with a handicap accessible restroom and a more adaptable outdoor space. The project has run into financing obstacles, but the goal is to start construction in the spring of 2016.

“We jokingly refer to it as the state park bathroom building. It was designed to make accessible restrooms for that complex down there because none of [the buildings in the area] have accessible bathrooms,” said Susan Smythe, the American Disabilities Act program coordinator for the college. “In addition to the restroom portion there is some outdoor space which is meant to be a little more active outdoor space. There would be some seating provided and [a] hard surface to set up a band or have a dance floor.”

The project was first proposed in 2011 as part of a broader movement to increase building accessibility at the college. At the time, the project was put on the backburner due to funding issues but the facilities department brought the project back up this year.

Many people have been involved in the project through its many phases. Student input, for example, was added by the Space Matters Committee that was formed last year.

“The goals of the committee, from what I understood, was to generate a pool of ideas as to how the College could improve, repurpose or create new student spaces … the space seemed  to offer an alternative space to the Amphitheater for larger outdoor events,” said Xavier Gerard Lee ’17, a member of the Space Matters Committee. “Not only will it be a more accessible and therefore a better space for all sorts of students, but I think that it will also change the way we approach certain events, particularly in the warmer months. Having an accessible outdoor venue of a decent size will open the possibilities of what students can do and organize, ultimately improving the nightlife scene here.”’

The administration plans to continue to get student input as the project advances.

“We will make sure that we’re asking for feedback from both the general student body as well as the student groups located in the buildings closest to the space,” said Assistant Dean and Director for Student Engagement Rachel Head.

The current plan for the building features several sustainable aspects to stay in line with the college’s environmental goals. The college signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2010 and set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2035.

“[The design] included rain water harvesting for flushing toilets … solar panels for the electricity, and some solar for hot water heat,” said Stuart Hain, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Projects.

According to Smythe, the current stormwater management for the tennis courts is poor, so this would offer an opportunity to fix that problem while helping to build a more environmentally-friendly building. A small building only being used for restrooms offers a unique opportunity for the college to showcase sustainable building techniques.

“[The building] offered the opportunity to do a great fun demonstration project and we could use some interesting materials …  you very seldom get to build buildings that don’t need a lot of heating and cooling,” said Smythe.

The college hopes to involve Massey Burke ’00 who works with alternative building materials such as clay, soil, sand, and straw. These materials will offer the opportunity for students to get involved in the construction and will provide educational benefits.

Although the administration is happy with the current green design of the building, the school is concerned about project cost estimates. According to Smythe, the board has approved a budget of $1 million, but various construction companies have estimated that the project will cost much more than that. “[The environmental aspects are] new for contractors so we are trying to work with contractors to take out some of the uncertainties for them, because part of what happens is if … you’ve not done something before, you’re a little more cautious about how you would go about doing it, so that’s reflected from a contractor in how they price it.” said Hain.

The original plan was to have the building open for students in spring of 2016, but the funding difficulties are making that impossible. The facilities department is currently in the process of re-working the design and rebidding the project.

The project will most likely be completed in phases. According to Smythe the goal is to start building the restroom in the spring. The building itself would only take three to four months to build. After the building is completed the pathways around Olde Club would be completed. The final phase will be to complete the pathwork to Sharples dining hall in the summer of 2017.

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