Summer Construction Work at MHC

Posted: June 21, 2006

No sooner do the Mount Holyoke students depart for summer than the scene changes dramatically: the stately green laurel chain, draped ceremoniously by the senior class around Mary Lyon's grave, yields to lengths of neon orange temporary fencing unfurled around construction sites. Flocks of alumna, students, and families disband, replaced by platoons of backhoes, cherry pickers, and bucket loaders. For John Bryant, director of facilities management, summer brings no respite from the busyness of the school year. It's the time to tackle major construction and renovation projects that can't be done when College is in session.

Bryant said that while the past five years have been particularly active for facilities management, this year is even busier. According to Bryant, the capital projects committee decides on the work to be done every year. "We start with a long list of potential projects and whittle it down to a manageable number that fits within the budget we have to work with," Bryant said. The list is submitted for approval to the College's board of trustees at its annual October meeting.

Here are the projects keeping Bryant and his crew busy this summer:

Underground Utilities
At the south end of campus, the lawn in front of Mary Woolley Hall is being excavated to extend various underground utilities (chilled water, domestic water, fire protection water, and natural gas) to the site of the new residence hall to be built on Pratt parking lot. The piping will be capped to await the upcoming residence hall project. Excavation and pipe installation work is taking place from June 5 through the middle of July. A large portion of Mary Woolley Circle will be closed for much of this time.

Prospect Hall
There are five separate projects happening at Prospect Hall this summer, including a small expansion of the kitchen to provide more kitchen prep and dry storage space for this popular student dining location. Other work includes installation of a new sewer line, a new high voltage electrical service, replacement of the underground sewer chamber and pump system and a new hot water service. During June and July in the vicinity of the Prospect driveway and the Willits lower parking lot, there will be noisy construction equipment digging trenches, installing new utilities, and building an exterior load-bearing wall for the expanded kitchen.

Mead Hall
Mead Hall's interior is undergoing extensive renovations to the former kitchen and dining spaces. Work includes the creation of new student rooms, a Golden Pear (reservable student dining space), student lounge, and TV room. All bathrooms will be fully renovated, and all of the building's electrical wiring will be completely replaced. The hall's exterior will be cleaned and renovated, and a permanent ADA compliant entrance ramp will be constructed. Underground perimeter drainage improvements will be made as well. The area around Mead will be a very busy construction site with lots of construction equipment. There will be occasional traffic interruption.

Wilder Hall
On February 17 during heavy wind gusts, a large branch (weighing several tons) broke away from a century-old copper beech tree, striking the northwest corner of Wilder Hall. This caused considerable damage to the exterior masonry walls, slate roof, chimney, and timber structure; it also collapsed the roof above the northern entry porch. Short-term repairs were made immediately following the accident. Because it is so important to match the colors of the newly repaired and existing masonry, the College has decided to clean and re-point the entire building exterior, similar to Safford, Blanchard, and Pratt. These longer-term restoration efforts will continue through the summer, making the area around Wilder a busy work zone until late August.

Hooker Auditorium
The interior of Hooker Auditorium is undergoing a complete renovation this summer. Long-standing acoustical issues will be remedied and new HVAC, lighting, mediation, and sound systems will be installed. The interior will be repainted and recarpeted; seats will be reupholstered and reinstalled. The eastern elevator in Clapp will also be replaced. This work will require the area in and around Hooker to be off limits until late August.

Campus Electrical Distribution
The campus electrical system will be upgraded to increase the primary electrical voltage from 4,160v to 13,800v, providing sufficient capacity for science, the new residence hall, and future growth. The phasing out of the older system and tie-in of the new will necessitate periodic power outages. Facilities management will make every effort to notify affected parties early and to schedule the work for least disruption. From June until mid-July, the stairs from Porter parking lot, on the south side of the amphitheater, will be closed for the excavation and construction of a small addition on the north side of the Central Services Building. The existing parking lot over the oil tanks will also be closed until midsummer.

Five dying hemlock trees, infested with woolly adelgid (a fluid-feeding insect that feeds on hemlock trees), will be removed from the area of Central Services. The health of all the trees in this area is being assessed; the mature sugar maple trees have shown signs of distress for the past few years. Replanting options are now being prepared and will be presented to the Campus Design and Advisory Committee in the early fall.

Five College Fiber Optic Network
This project involves the installation of underground conduit sections to supplement the existing campus duct bank system in order to support the extension of the Five College Fiber Optic System to the Mount Holyoke campus.

Reading Room at Williston Library
The main Reading Room will be closed for replacement of the carpet, repainting of the ceiling, and upgrading of the lighting. This work will require relocation of shelving and books. The project will be undertaken between June 5 and mid-July.

1837 Residence Hall Retaining Wall
Major work will be required this summer to repair the exterior retaining walls and stairway west of 1837 Hall. The road between 1837 Hall and Lower Lake will be closed to vehicular traffic. Pedestrian traffic may be disrupted from time to time as well. This work will be noisy and dusty, and will unfortunately be a nuisance to occupants of 1837 Hall if they spend large parts of the day in the building.

Unisex Toilet Room/Changing Area at Kendall
An existing visitor's team room is being converted to a toilet and changing area. The disruption will likely be confined to the work area, and the project will be closely coordinated with the managers at Kendall.

Cross Country Trails
Repairs and improvements are being made to many of the College's walking and equestrian trails to prepare for an intercollegiate cross-country race in the fall.

Clapp Room 114/Shattuck Basement/Mary Lyon Third Floor Office
These spaces are being renovated for new faculty members. The work will entail some demolition and create the usual noise associated with mechanical work, demolition, and construction of new walls and ceilings.

Skinner Basement Reorganization
The office partitions in Skinner's lower level are being removed and replaced. Power and data wiring will also be redone. The occupants will be relocated as needed. This work should not be excessively disruptive to others in the building.

Study Rooms at the South Stacks of Williston Library
The existing space is being converted to collaborative study space, primarily using glass partitions. Most of the disruption for this project will be in the immediate work vicinity.

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