From Better Homes and Gardens to This Old House, countless magazines include remodeling projects among their top features. As these magazines point out, remodeling can ultimately increase the value and pleasure of a residence. But it takes a lot of planning before that golden day of completion, and there will be noise and dust along the way.
Keeping The University of Iowa residence halls up-to-date is really no different. The planning generally is initiated by UI Residence Services, in consultation with student groups, central administration, and others. But just as in home remodeling projects, the residents–in this case the students–will experience some short-term inconvenience for a long-term gain.
“We wish construction didn’t have to happen while students are here,” says Maggie Van Oel, director of Residence Services. “We know it can be noisy, dusty, and disruptive. But unfortunately many of the projects are too large to complete during the two-month summer session.”
Students in eastside residence halls will notice the ongoing remodeling of the Burge dining project. The remodeling, which began in the summer of 2002, will ultimately result in a dining room with multiple serving stations, similar to the one that was completed in Hillcrest in 2000. The project will continue during the entire academic year, with the new kitchen, serving stations, a beverage station, and all new seating to be completed in summer 2004. The new dining facilities will look out on a newly renovated Burge courtyard, scheduled for completion in summer 2004. The Burge lobby will be renovated in the final phase of construction, to be completed in December 2004.
“Students have been supportive of the construction project by adjusting their dining schedules as needed, and we appreciate that,” Van Oel says.
One major construction project from the past whose results have pleased plenty of students is the updating of a portion of Currier’s main floor to include a stage, study areas, computer center, game room, and workout facility. The facility has proved so popular that more treadmills and pool tables are being added, just a year after completion. Pool tables also will be added in Mayflower, Quadrangle, and Slater, and Mayflower will get more treadmills as well.
Two newly completed projects enjoyed by students on the west side of campus are the Hillcrest 24-hour desk and the Hillcrest “C” or Convenience Store, where students can purchase snack foods and other convenience items with cash, Hawkeye dollars, or charges to their University accounts.
Slightly less glamorous, but no less important renovations continue to be made in residence hall safety. Every residence hall recently has had or currently is undergoing fire safety improvements.
“All our residence halls already met code requirements for fire detection and suppression,” says John Josten, assistant director for facilities and operations for Residence Services. “These changes are voluntary improvements.”
The changes include installing “smart” detection systems that can more easily pinpoint trouble spots and also can distinguish between a malfunction and a true fire.
“These systems are so sensitive that they can determine the density of smoke as opposed to dust,” Josten says. “This will help cut down on the inconveniences associated with false alarms. But it’s important to remember that fire safety is a partnership between Residence Services and the students—students need to evacuate their rooms appropriately.”
Fire suppression systems—sprinkler systems—also are being installed. Disruption due to these upgrades largely will be completed by fall, although there may be some drywall work to finish.
One of the projects that will have the biggest impact on students is the upgrade to Mayflower Residence Hall. During the summers of 2003 and 2004, all single pane windows and old screens will be replaced. But the Mayflower project is too big to complete in summers alone. Renovation will continue during the next three or four years and will include major plumbing and restroom remodeling. Six vertical stacks of rooms will be complete when school starts, but the work will continue during the academic year, one vertical stack at a time. The bad news is that students will have to move once during the year, from one stack of rooms to the other. The good news is that they’ll move into suites that feature new plumbing, new tub enclosures, and new windows.
Wherever and whenever construction takes place, students are kept up-to-date by their building staff members. Construction companies have signed contracts forbidding noisy work before 9 a.m., and there will be no work during the move-in period and following week, and none during finals and the week before finals.
“While students have to expect some noise and dust, we’re trying to minimize the impact as much as possible,” Van Oel says. “Is it an ideal situation? No, but we’re getting there.”
One exciting project planned for the future is the construction of a new residence hall, featuring semiprivate rooms with bath, on the west side of the river. If approved by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, construction will begin in May 2005, with completion slated for August 2007. Beginning in the fall, resident assistants will be taking student groups through a room mock-up, and students can fill out a survey that will provide input to Residence Services about the room purposed design.
For more information on Residence Services construction projects, visit www.uiowa.edu/~resserve/facilities/capitalprojects.
By Linzee Kull McCray