EMU’s internal emails this summer were unusual – yet oddly heartening. The combined hubbub of construction projects and thousands of summer guests made for feelings of excitement – and of dislocation.
There was this funny message: “History professors Mark Sawin and Mary Sprunger hope students will find them in their temporary office spaces borrowed from the library.”
Some employees signed up to help colleagues move their office belongings from spaces they need to vacate on campus to other landing spots before classes begin.
A dozen staffers volunteered to clean dormitory rooms on a Saturday morning in July, responding to an emailed request for extra cleaning help. (Physical plant staffers needed assistance to achieve a quick turn-around between two huge summer camps using the residence halls, back to back.)
EMU’s long-time registrar, David Detrow ’77, was juggling classroom assignments, squeezing classes into all available spaces, awaiting the completion of classroom, seminar and office spaces on the second and third floor of Roselawn, plus those in the east section of the Suter Science Center.
“It’s satisfying to reuse and bring to new life a residence hall that has been under-utilized,” said physical plant director C. Eldon Kurtz ’76, perched atop the three-story-high unfinished elevator shaft attached to Roselawn, surveying a stupendous eastern mountain view with his assistant director, Ed Lehman.
Daryl Bert ’97, who monitors EMU’s construction and renovation projects as vice president for finance, noted that inspiration for renovating Roselawn flowed from successfully meeting the needs of EMU’s fast-growing Intensive English Program. Before IEP moved to the revamped first floor of Roselawn in 2012, IEP was lodged in a small house near the seminary building on Smith Avenue.
Success of IEP
“After our success with IEP’s space, we began to consider whether we could re-purpose the other floors of Roselawn,” Bert said. He added, however, that IEP’s growth owed more to “the energy and entrepreneurship of [IEP director] Kathleen Roth,” than to its new space, which merely addressed the need for additional space generated by Roth’s efforts.
By the spring 2015 semester, one of the largest classrooms on campus will be on the third floor of Roselawn. It will feature a soaring ceiling, made possible by a “pop-up” structure on the roof of Roselawn, offering a great, naturally lit space for up to 50 people.
Another room will be the hub of distance-learning, with television screens, cameras and seats for 20.
“I expect a lot of our growth in graduate and professional studies over the next number of years to be in the development of distance-learning programs,” said Jim Smucker, dean of EMU’s newly named School for Graduate and Professional Studies.
“With a few exceptions, we are saying any new program needs to be able to be delivered at a distance. Our preferred model will be a hybrid approach which will include short-term residencies and synchronous and asynchronous delivery.”
The undergraduate side of the university is also growing, with a 6% increase over the last three years and a 39% increase in applications since 2009. Tallying all of the programs, including graduate students, “we are as large of a university as we have ever been since opening as a school in 1917,” said Luke Hartman ’91, vice president for enrollment.
The second and third floor of Roselawn will bring together a number of liberal arts departments that often collaborate in an interdisciplinary manner – history, applied social sciences, Bible and religion, and language and literature. (Psychology will join this group on a temporary basis, awaiting renovation of the western portion of the Suter Science Center.) A large-sized classroom, medium-sized classroom, seminar room, and gathering area will be shared among these departments.
Two of these departments will be vacating old houses on the southern edge of campus, which will be turned into administrative offices and “intentional community” housing for students. The former language and literature area will be occupied by the department of development and church relations, which is moving from a privately owned house for which EMU paid rent.
Meanwhile, renovations on the 45-year-old Suter Science Center are fully underway, with the word “renovations” used broadly. The “head room” on Suter’s southern flank had to be torn down entirely when its foundation proved to be unstable. So that part of Suter Science will be rebuilt from the ground up. Some other parts of Suter have been gutted, as necessary to rework the ducting for heating, cooling and ventilation and to make other changes required for state-of-the-art science laboratories and classrooms.
Most building since 2000
Construction projects this summer are the most extensive undertaken at EMU since the northern section of the University Commons was built in 2000 to house the athletic facilities, snack bar, game room, student-life offices, and bookstore. That cost $11 million. The construction budget for the projects underway this summer will total $9.4 million.
For its first 90 years, EMU averaged one major construction project every seven years. The pace of new construction and renovations has accelerated in recent years, as EMU seeks to accommodate the growing demand for up-to-date spaces.
Cedarwood residence hall was completed in the fall of 2009, along with extensive renovations to Elmwood and Maplewood residence halls – all conforming to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. These dorms have proven to be highly popular for rental by summer groups, which accounts for the thousands of new faces on campus this summer.
In 2011, the Lee Eshleman Studio and MainStage theaters, Margaret Martin Gehman Art Gallery, Common Grounds Coffeehouse, and the Kenneth A. Longacre Sr. Advanced Media Lab were completed, rounding out the renovation of the University Commons.
Renovations to the east portion of the Suter Science Center began in early 2014 – a $7 million project.
“To stay on the forefront of a whole-person education – with graduates who become physicians, nurses, lab technologists, physical therapists, and other science professionals – we are committed to having the quality of facilities needed by our teachers and students,” said Kirk Shisler ’81, vice president for advancement.
“I am deeply grateful to the 465 alumni, friends and foundations that have supported our current renovations,” he said.”*
Kurtz says Roselawn is proving to be an “amazing transformation of spaces.” Previously, consideration had been given to tearing down Roselawn, since it was not accessible to people with physical disabilities and had no air conditioning or cross ventilation via its narrow windows. But it was built on a solid foundation, with a strong shell, so Kurtz and Lehman worked with Blue Ridge Architects to find a way to salvage the building.
Learning from LEED work
Now Kurtz thinks Roselawn might end up being one of the nicest places on campus, with “all the lessons we learned in putting up LEED-certified residence halls being applied to Roselawn. These are standard for us now.”
Like Cedarwood, Roselawn will have its climate controlled through a “variable refrigerant flow” system, used successfully for 20 years in Japan and Europe but fairly new to the United States. The occupants of each room will be able to regulate the temperature to their satisfaction. “We keep adding climate-controlled space, yet our energy usage keeps going down,” said Kurtz. “Saving energy is really satisfying to me.”
Between the construction projects and the high usage of facilities by summer groups, Kurtz said his staff have been stretched thin this summer – “we haven’t budgeted additional positions to take on the extra work.” On the plus, “we’re looking forward to less maintenance on the ancient and obsolete HVAC systems that are being replaced.”
Lest smaller improvements be overlooked amid the big ones, note that night lighting is appearing on the sand volleyball court, with labor provided by physical plant staff and materials partly covered by a grant from the student government association.