Campus construction update: Counseling Center renovation among numerous ongoing projects

September 7, 2022
By: Deborah O'Neil

This fall, students who visit the Counseling Center will be welcomed in a newly renovated reception area and find enhancements throughout the suite that make it larger and more private.

The eight-month, $714,000 renovation completed in August is among the University’s recently completed and ongoing capital improvement projects as fall semester begins. The redesign and expansion of the suite, located on the third floor of the Student Center, will enable Counseling Center staff to better meet increasing demand for support by students. The Counseling Center sees about 600 students per year.

The cheerful, bright blue enclosed reception area allows staff to have more private phone conversations that cannot be overheard by those in the adjoining waiting area. Office space was reconfigured to add two more offices, widen the hallways and create a private rear exit for students.

“It is more private, more professional and overall more of what students would expect as they walk into a doctor’s office,’ said Director of Counseling Services Laura Murphy. “Everything is more sound proof and overall more conducive to the volume of students that we see.”

Here’s a look at the other ongoing and upcoming projects underway by the Facilities Department.

Campus Edge: This multi-phase, comprehensive plan to redesign the University’s Chandler Street frontage is underway. The project aims to create a defined gateway to the campus, and to transform the acreage into more walkable, welcoming and usable greenspace for students, faculty, staff and community members who visit campus.

The finished project will span the length of campus from the North to the South entrance and include new fencing and university signage, lighting, brick walkways, plantings, and a new water feature. A new outdoor teaching area will be created in front of the Ghosh Building. To make all of that possible, the university had to level out a 12- foot change in grade in front of the Administration Building, work that happened over the summer. 

This phase of the work was funded by the State, and the Facilities Department is hoping to identify grant funding for trees. Construction happening now in front of the Administration Building is due to be completed by the end of October

Learning Resource Center First Floor Lighting and Ceiling: This two-year, $1.9 million project which will be completed  the first week of September, replaces all of the original wiring and electric panels, updates lighting to energy efficient fixtures and includes new ceilings. It was funded jointly by the State and university operating funds.

“We took the opportunity to make it an energy efficiency project,’ said Assistant Vice President of Facilities Operations and Planning, Sandra Olson. “The new lighting is much more efficient. It’s a great help in a round building with very few windows and wayfinding can be a challenge.”

Starting in July 2023, the university will be replacing the LRC roof.

Ghosh Science and Technology Center Fume Hood Refurbishments: This project involved the refurbishment of more than 50 fume hoods that vent the building’s science labs, a re-engineering of the mechanical system that serves them, and replacement of five large fan assemblies that serve the wet labs. The existing equipment had reached the end of its mechanical life. The new system is designed to be more energy efficient. The $2.1 million project, funded jointly by the state and university, is due to be completed early in the fall semester.

Sullivan Academic Center Eager Auditorium and Boilers: The two-story amphitheater and lecture hall was originally constructed in 1965. As part of the renovation planning, a team from Academic Affairs, Marketing, Conference & Event Services and IT came together to plan for the venue’s future use for instruction, guest speakers and distance learning, Olson said. The $1.9 million renovation will include IT and AV enhancements that allow for distance learning and a refurbished lecture hall. Supply chain delays in the delivery of the new AV equipment will force the auditorium to be closed through the fall, and it is expected to reopen in January 2023.

Also in the Sullivan Academic Center, new boilers were installed this summer after three of the building’s five units experienced failures this spring. The units were paid for by the state critical repair funds.

University-wide electrical infrastructure: This massive ongoing project will replace all of the university’s electrical infrastructure to make the system more reliable. Led by the State’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, Gilbane Construction and National Grid, and fully funded by the state, the $12- $15 million upgrade to the underground system’s transformers, cables, manholes and ducts will enable the university to more effectively manage power outages without shutting down the entire campus.

“The old system was set up like Christmas lights, if one went out, they all went out,” said Olson. “In order to make it safe to repair, we had to take everything offline and cut power to the entire campus.”

The university was averaging about 22 hours of downtime with each power outage, Olson said. The new system is a loop with two sources of power. “If something goes wrong, you can isolate the problem, and have the rest of the campus stay up and live,” she said. “This is a big deal for a university. We have faculty doing research with minus 80 degree freezers, and we house people’s children.”

Some of the work will be taking place along Chandler Street, and is expected to wrap up in the summer of 2023.

Sullivan Auditorium Renovation: This project will kick off in January 2023 and is expected to last about nine months. The renovation will bring the auditorium up to code for accessibility requirements and include new stage flooring, accessible entrances, accessible access to the stage, new seating, AV equipment and the construction of two gender neutral bathrooms.

Construction studies: To initiate any capital improvement project, the university is required to first complete an assessment study. This academic year, studies will be initiated to look at bathroom renovations and roof replacement in the Learning Resource Center, a campus energy and decarbonization plan, as well as the upgrade of mechanical systems in the Sullivan Academic Center that are reaching the end of their life.

Photo: Counseling Center staff members Sarah Valois, Julie Glovin, Melanie Bolduc, Laura Murphy, Lucia Alfaro, Kevin Fenlon and MK, the Counseling Center’s assistance dog, in the newly renovated reception area of the center, located on the third floor of the Student Services Building.

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