New life to old halls

The pipes clank, paint is falling off walls, and the windows leak cold air inside Stoddard and Elliot residence halls. Although, these halls have housed students for centuries, their age is showing and wasting a lot of energy in the process.

Stoddard and Elliot are the two oldest residence halls on Miami University’s campus, Elliot built in 1829 is the oldest in Ohio. Add that to the fact they have not had a thorough renovation since 1937, and it is easy to see why they have inefficiencies.

However, their much anticipated renovations this summer will address this problem, as they become the first halls in Miami’s 15 year master plan for residence hall renovations.

“We felt they are appropriate to take on first to make a big impact on students, and sort of showcasing something in the center of campus,” explained project architect Robert Bell. “Of course, their historic nature has a lot of maintenance and sustainability issues, and we figured we could take older buildings and make them new.”

Bell also said their smaller size makes them a good starting place since the renovations can be completed over the summer, but even then, time will be the contractor’s greatest obstacle. The renovations are planned to start May 9, the day after commencement, and be finished by August 12 for the beginning of school.

In that time, Bell emphasized there will be a lot of work done to the buildings.

“There will be upgrades in general for all the operating systems,” He said “All the systems are at the point where they need a lot of maintenance and require a lot of energy, so the systems we put in will not only be more efficient, but better meet the needs of students.”

Bell explained in a generation where students own so much more technology than in generations past, most of Stoddard and Elliot’s rooms do not have a sufficient amount of electrical plugs. Also, the fading furniture and antique Kitchen appliances will be replaced with new ones to increase the aesthetic appeal.

“I think there’s definitely the lack of visual appeal right now,” said the buildings’ Graduate Resident Director Craig Berger. “You get the sense that you’re in a historic building, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but right now it’s apparent that the spaces don’t look as well as they could.”

To keep with the sustainability of the renovations Bell said the old furniture will be reused in other buildings on campus where the furniture is even older.

Miami’s Sustainability Coordinator David Prytherch said after Stoddard and Elliot’s renovation they will be the most sustainable buildings on campus. He said one of the main reasons for this is the new geothermal energy system that will be installed.

He explained geothermal energy takes advantage of the constant 54 degree temperature underneath the earth. Instead of having to heat the air when it drops into the single digits, or cool it when it soars into the nineties, geothermal wells in the ground circulate air at that constant temperature, which then requires less energy to bring it to a desired temperature.

According to Bell, Stoddard and Elliot will share eight geothermal wells to maintain their heating and cooling. He claimed this will be a significant improvement from the current steam heating system with clanking pipes, and the lack of air conditioning system in the halls.

“It’s fantastic that the oldest buildings on campus will be the most energy efficient,” Prytherch said.

That inefficiency will be addressed in other renovations to the buildings, as well.

Bell said there will be energy efficient windows, added insulation to the walls, and water saving sinks, toilets, and showers. In addition, water and electrical systems will be shared between the buildings to help save space in the small buildings.

“Another thing we are looking at is safety and security, and accessibility,” Bell explained was another important feature of the renovations.

He said the buildings’ bathrooms will be redesigned to be more accessible to disabled students, a new fire suppression system will be added, and limitations will be placed on first-floor windows, so they cannot be accessed from the outside.

Despite all the changes, Bell said the overall layout of the buildings will not change. Only an existing mailroom on Stoddard’s first floor will be converted into a single room, and the community space in Elliot will be increased.

Berger thought the added community space will benefit the Scholar Leader community who resides in the halls.

“I’m really excited we are getting more of a community space,” exclaimed Berger. “Other halls have spaces where they can hold large meetings, and we cannot with our current set-up.”

His Graduate Resident Director suite will also be upgraded to include a kitchenette and laundry facilities, although he said he will not be able to use it.

“Unfortunately, I’m graduating,” Berger said. “But I hope the additions will help attract people to my position.”

Bell said the cost of construction will be $6.4 million, with the overall renovation price tag at almost $9 million. He said the money that will be saved on energy and the price of maintaining the old operating systems will aid in off-setting that cost.

He emphasized the decision to go with environmentally responsible technology was a measure to limit the universities dependence on coal, and that they will continue to use it on future campus renovations.

“We also think it’s the right thing to do as stewards of the earth,” Bell concluded.


By: Bridget Vis

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