Construction Update, Fall 2012

Wed, 19 Dec 2012 11:40:00 CST  — by: Daniel Church, C'11, Sustainability Post-Baccalaureate Fellow '12-'13

orange_fence_300While on a recent walk around campus with Reggie Vachon, Sewanee’s assistant director of Physical Plant Services, he remarked that this academic year would henceforth be known as “The Year of the Orange Fence” at Sewanee. And any quick visit to campus will indeed reveal new construction in numerous locations.

The first, and perhaps most obvious, of these projects is the construction of new chilled water piping, buried in trenches through the Quad, across University Avenue, and down South Carolina Avenue. This will provide a highly efficient form of central cooling to a building cluster that includes Cannon Hall, a new dormitory adjacent to Cannon and a future student union on the site of Thompson Union. A new chiller will be added in lower Gailor Hall that uses state-of-the-art frictionless magnetic bearing technology that is 60 percent more efficient than the existing chillers. The piping to the Cannon-area cluster connects those buildings to the Gailor plant. University Avenue is expected to be repaired in the next several weeks.

A large number of central campus buildings, including Gailor Hall, McClurg Dining Hall, Woods Lab and Spencer Hall, All Saints’ Chapel, Carnegie Hall, Snowden Hall, and Van Ness Hall, are already connected to the existing Gailor plant. Once installed, the new chiller will have the capacity to eventually provide air conditioning for Guerry Hall, Walsh-Ellett, Convocation Hall, and McCrady Hall, among other buildings. An independent engineering study showed that the frictionless central chiller will use half as much energy as individual chillers for these buildings. The $1.1 million chiller project is expected to be completed by Spring 2013.

In a connected project, Cannon Residence Hall is undergoing an extensive renovation. When constructed in 1926, Cannon Hall was recognized as one of the finest dorms in the country, but years of heavy usage have seen the condition of the dorm decline. This year’s renovation is the first major renovation of the dorm since 2005. The LEED-silver equivalent renovation will see new central heating and air; LED lighting; highly efficient sinks, showers, and toilets; reduced parking to encourage walking; a stormwater management system featuring a rain garden; and a larger, more functional kitchen, as well as the use of wood harvested from the Domain. The dorm, which will be co-ed for the first time, is expected to be back in use by Spring 2013.

The renovation of Cannon Hall will be accompanied by the construction of a new residence hall between Cannon and Fulford halls. A large outdoor sitting area will connect the two dormitories and will also serve as an outdoor classroom. The renovated Cannon Hall and new dormitory, a combined $10.9 million project, will house about 150 students. The intent of the construction of the new dorm is to draw more students back to housing in the heart of campus.

And if all of this orange fencing around campus isn’t enough, the McGriff Alumni House is in the middle of constructing a new patio, the library is installing fiber optic and technology improvements, and the demolition and construction of the new Sewanee Inn is expected to begin in the next several months.

An old adage used by admissions offices says that any construction on campus is a good sign, signifying improvements and expansion. Not only does Sewanee’s new construction signify campus improvements but it also indicates a continued and growing commitment to sustainability by the university. Growth often carries a negative connotation among environmentalists, as many see it inherently having negative environmental consequences. Sewanee’s new growth, however, bucks this trend by not only incorporating sustainable design elements such as local wood, but also anticipating continued expansion and thus installing a highly energy-efficient HVAC system that will support the institution’s continued commitment to carbon neutrality.

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