Tour MHC's New Residence Hall

Posted: March 18, 2008

In advance of this spring's housing lottery, the MHC community will be invited to tour the new, state-of-the-art, "green" residence hall on March 26. "We'll show them some of the building's high points, the shape and scale of it," said John Bryant, the College's director of facilities planning and management. "We'll make sure it's safe for them, but it is still a working construction site."

Trained student guides will take visitors through the site in groups of approximately 12; tours will run from 3:15 to 6:15 pm and will last 10-15 minutes. Participants should meet at the Rooke Theatre patio and wear sturdy shoes.

The project--the College's first new residence hall in 40 years--is on schedule and within budget, according to Bryant. The building is entering the final stages of construction and will be ready for students when they arrive in late August 2008.

Fundraising for the residence hall is a key component of The Campaign for Mount Holyoke. Fifteen million dollars of the building's $30 million total cost will come from gifts raised for the project as part of the current $300 million Campaign.

President Joanne V. Creighton, who keeps a close eye on the project, is extremely pleased with how the building is taking shape: "I think it is a great addition to the College, felicitously combining urban and rural, classic and with-it. In the front, it articulates a striking southeast border of the campus, communing with historic buildings. In the back, it opens out to breathtaking, panoramic views of the dam, the brook, the hill, the lake, the winding paths and rolling topography. In other words, it embraces its environment and respects it with energy-efficient features, in keeping with the College's commitment to environmental stewardship."

John BryantBryant (left) said the building will use one-third as much energy per square foot as the average for other buildings on campus. "The building has an extremely tight envelope," he said. "As you walk by, you may have noticed the green rubberized covering under the brick exterior. It's a breathable moisture and vapor barrier that gets sprayed on, so it seals up all the nooks and crannies. It's seamless, so it's tighter against wind infiltration, but it also allows the masonry to breathe."

The building, which will consist of six separate residential clusters, will have an interactive energy monitoring system so that students in each cluster will be able to compare their energy use in real time to other clusters' use. This is the first such system on campus, and Bryant is excited to be working with the new technology. He is also looking forward to using solar hot water panels on the building, another new energy-saving feature for the College.

"The building itself is attractive, but it's also a gorgeous setting," Bryant said. "The building is angled to take full advantage of the views to Stony Brook and Lower Lake." He noted that the quarter-round rotunda at the corner of the building will serve as a beacon, better defining that edge of the campus and announcing the secondary entrance to the campus. He expects that the rotunda will create more vitality and activity near the Gorse parking lot across Morgan Street, where students come and go throughout the day and night.

"The workers are thoroughly enjoying working on the project," said Bryant. "They have a sense of pride because it's going to be a prominent, attractive, and high-quality building. You can really feel their sense of accomplishment as you walk through the job site." There are approximately 75 workers on the site now, but Bryant said that number will increase to over 100 as more finish work in the interior spaces gets under way.

Rene Davis, director of residential life, feels excitement growing across campus as the new residence hall takes shape. "We can begin to decompress and attend to much needed repairs," she said. "This building will add immensely to the residential life program. It provides much needed space and the variety in living options students are seeking. What excites me most about the building is the process. The layout and amenities within were designed in concept by student feedback. That process has informed my understanding of how the residence hall layout reinforces community. It's nice to see a great collaboration between students and administration come to life."

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