Extreme Makeover, IC Edition

By Kerry C. Regan, September 6, 2019
More than 50 campus construction projects made for a busy summer.

Update - September 19, 2019: This article was updated to include summer construction projects that contributed to improved accessibility on campus.

When the associate vice president of facilities says the summer’s most important construction project is a new boiler installation, your excitement meter probably takes a nosedive. But while the Job Hall boiler project may well deserve top billing, many of the more than 50 construction and renovation projects completed at Ithaca College over the summer are far more likely to turn heads and elicit smiles for their contributions to campus life.

Among them: two enhanced “gathering spaces” (one new, one upgraded), a new large-screen display in the Athletics and Events Center, and further development of a sustainability pilot residence hall room.

The activity level was similar to the past few summers, said Tim Carey, associate vice president of the Office of Facilities, and that means “we’ve had another very busy construction season. But we’re used to it,” he added. “We embrace the challenge of completing our projects so that instructional programs go on uninterrupted and our students, faculty and staff are well served.”

Following the Master Plan

So what’s up with the Job Hall boiler? “When I was asked what kept me up at night, that was it,” Carey said. It was 55 years old and services four buildings: Job, Friends, Textor and Muller Faculty Center. Carey’s concern was that performance degradation and failure was on the horizon. The potential for major problems that could spread across heating systems in four buildings was real. Along with a new high-efficiency boiler, each building is getting new hot water piping to deliver heat to the four buildings. “It’s a major project,” he said.

It’s one of several summer projects that addressed maintenance that were deferred in the early 2000s to finance a flurry of new construction. Others include a new roof on Williams Hall and mechanical updates in Job and Textor. The effort to address deferred maintenance is a key plank in the campus master plan.

Another master plan directive is to enhance and increase indoor and outdoor gathering spaces “to create more of a sense of place,” Carey said. “We value the collaboration and interaction that these spaces promote.”

Two such spaces were enhanced this summer: building a patio and fire pit to create a new space outside of the Terrace Dining Hall, and replacing the patio roof on the terrace of Campus Center. The Terrace Dining fire pit was intentionally designed with accessibility and inclusion in mind, including the addition of paver stones, wide gathering areas around the pit and an accessible inclined entrance to/from the building. 

“As annual projects and accompanying budgets are planned, the Facilities team seeks strategies to enhance accessibility within buildings as well as on the grounds of our campus," said Carey. "I am very pleased that this approach has yielded positive results, and we will continue to seek improved accessibility for all members of our campus community.”

The Terrace Dining Hall project coincides with another sweeping change: the insourcing of dining services. The Facilities department incorporated a number of layout changes and furniture and equipment upgrades in kitchens and dining rooms to enhance the dining experience and better support the new Dining Leadership team. The Terrace Dining Hall also is getting an allergen-free food station similar to the one that opened to a warm reception last year in the Campus Center Dining Hall.

Big Screen

One upgrade that will be especially visible is the new oversized screen for the Athletics and Events Center. It will serve as a scoreboard for athletics events and a presentation screen for speakers and other performers and was used during convocation.

Progress on Long-Term Projects

Several multi-year projects made significant progress this summer, as well. They include:

  • The creation of the Chestnut Living Lab (funded by a Presidential Seed Grant), a student room in the Garden Apartments. This experiment in developing more environmentally sustainable living spaces seeks to document potential financial and natural resource savings for wider deployment on campus. Summer updates included ecologically conscious flooring, furniture made from recycled materials, low-flow water fixtures and LED lighting.  
  • Installation of card access readers in the Job, Friends, Textor and Muller buildings. Eventually, every campus building will have a card access reader to limit building access during non-traditional hours, enhancing asset protection and campus safety.
  • The creation of more all-gender restrooms. The campus now has more than 100, many of which are accessible, and the plan is to continue to convert additional restrooms.
  • Accessible restrooms are added as part of the renovation projects that are completed each year.
  • Parking lot leveling and paving (including the Upper J-Lot and the lots outside the Maintenance Building and the Facilities Services Building) to provide added accessible parking spaces.

Much other summer work was for recurring projects: patching roads, enhancing accessibility, painting, replacing carpets, upgrading audiovisual equipment with Information Technology, improving energy conservation with LED lights and sub-metering, and renovating a few classrooms, selected jointly each year by the Offices of the Provost, Facilities and Information Technology. This year’s upgrades were in the Textor Hall lecture rooms, the Sir Alexander Ewing Speech and Hearing Clinic in Smiddy Hall, the mouse lab in CNS and the Husa Lab in the School of Music.

“I’m fortunate to be working with a team of skilled and knowledgeable Facilities professionals who care about the students and the institution,” Carey said. “We take great pride in seeing that a facilities issue will never be the reason why a student, faculty member or staff member doesn’t choose IC, or chooses to leave IC.”

This summer’s projects fit well in that tradition.