Building construction continues at UNA as officials prepare for more projects

Steel frames remain exposed on parts of a new residence hall Jan. 18. Assistant Vice President for Facilities Administration and Planning Michael Gautney said the first building will open in August with the second following in January.

People who spent time on campus recently most likely noticed the seas of white hard hats and yellow caution tape denoting several construction sites.

Officials said a cold weather snap earlier this month had minimal effects on the construction of the new science building and two new residence halls.

“The schedule seems to still be holding,” said Assistant Vice President for Facilities Administration and Planning Michael Gautney. “We’ve had a few issues with the exterior work because of the weather, rain and subfreezing temperatures, but everything should be made up over the long term.”

He said the contractors maintain two-week detailed schedules that are regularly updated. If the work falls behind or pulls ahead, the schedules are adjusted to ensure the projects stay on schedule, he said.

Officials said the science building project is expected to be completed soon, as the construction contract is active through mid-February.

Gautney said the work currently involves final checks to the ground floor and decorative projects on the second and third floors.

“All the mechanical, electrical and plumbing is finished,” he said. “We’re working on carpet and tile on the other floors. We still have to do the landscaping and sidewalks.”

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Carmen Burkhalter said the future of Floyd Hall will be determined by a committee headed by Gautney, but no decision has been made.

Biology professor Paul Kittle said the students and faculty in his department are thankful they will soon be in a new facility.

“Really, for the students, it’s just going to be a better environment,” Kittle said. “We have a terrible climate control system in Floyd. It’s either too hot or too cold. And, the new labs are going to be much more spacious.”

Senior Shawn Overton said he agrees the new science building will give students a more comfortable work area.

He said he has taken classes before in the building and temperatures were too high to be productive.

“It was really hard to get anything done, especially in the summer,” Overton said. “It was so hot we had to keep the windows open.”

Kittle said packing materials can be found in Floyd, as faculty are preparing for the move.

“The professors are going to have some research space they don’t have currently,” he said. “It’ll be a place where students will want to stay.”

Kittle said more research space contributes to the classroom because students will now have more opportunities to interact with faculty research.

Overton said the extra space in the new building will benefit larger classes.

He said some of the classes he has taken in Floyd were cramped.

The construction of two new residence halls will provide new housing for about 760 students, replacing Rice and Rivers halls.

Vice President for Student Affairs David Shields indicated in an earlier interview the future of the two old halls has not yet been determined.

Gautney said the new halls remain on track for the first to open in August, coinciding with the implementation of a freshman live-on requirement.

The second building is expected to open January 2015.

Two indoor construction projects are also expected to begin soon, Gautney said.

Junior Kyle Crown and Sophomore James Gasque said the new halls will likely improve the campus landscape.

Students said the people who visit campus during SOAR in the summer would be more likely to choose to attend UNA if they stay in nicer residences.

Officials formerly announced renovation of the former University Bookstore in the GUC would begin during the 2014 fall semester. The project will create a new Student Engagement Center.

“We don’t have a schedule currently,” Gautney said. “We’re getting final drawings completed for the state to approve. We will start that project hopefully some time in March.”

The project is intended to create a larger, more welcoming environment for students, said Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Tammy Jacques, in an earlier interview.

Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs Clinton Carter said the budget for the renovation is $250,000.

Gautney said the project will likely fall below that amount.

Crown said although the cost of the project is high, as long as the results benefit students, he is in favor.

“If RSO’s will have more space to work on posters and banners and projects like that, it will be better than the other office,” said Sophomore Nikki Lowery.

Officials also announced last fall the Norton Auditorium bathrooms would soon be renovated, and Gautney said the $160,000 project is expected to begin in August and be completed around mid-November, pending state approval.

Because the auditorium is used to host university events, construction schedules had to be planned based on when the building would be available, he said.

Officials said the budget for the project is $160,000, but Gautney anticipates costs could be higher.

“We’re actually having to add restrooms in Norton to meet building code requirements,” he said. We have to increase the number of toilets from six to 11 in the women’s restroom. The men’s doesn’t have the same requirements. There will be four toilets, and six urinals instead of three.”

Sophomore Emily Ownby said improving the bathrooms will make a better impression of campus to the community.

“I’ve heard alumni joke (the bathrooms) look like they did 30 years ago,” Ownby said. “I think if the money’s there and people are on board, the bathrooms should be updated, especially since community people use Norton for noncampus events.”

She said as the university expands, older buildings and facilities also need to be updated.