Preparations for CULC begin

Preparations have begun for construction of the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons (CULC). Facilities began work earlier this month upgrading and rerouting existing water, steam and communication utilities around the site of the new building.

Funding for the CULC was included in the state budget for the next fiscal year. As a result, construction work will begin on the building could begin as early as May.

“There is a substantial amount of underground utility work that needs to be done, so that is going to be primary construction activity for the short term,” said John DuConge, project manager for Facilities Capital Projects Group. “The utility work will be done in sections to mitigate the impact on access in that area of campus. Once the utility project is complete, the construction zone will be substantially reduced for the building project.”

Over the course of the project, the western edge of the construction area will extend from Skiles Walkway to Atlantic Dr. and the eastern border will be marked by Fowler St.

Currently there is a green fence that encloses the area between Skiles Walkway and Atlantic Dr, as well as a small portion of Yellow Jacket Park. The actual footprint of the building will not extend into Yellow Jacket Park, but currently the space is required for construction equipment and utility work.

As the preparation work gets started on the CULC, the design of the building has entered its final stages. An SGA advisory group has been working with the building’s many stakeholders to make sure that student concerns were heard and addressed.

Students, faculty and alumni expressed concern about the building’s appearance in relation to its location in the center of campus. As a result, the design of the building is considerably different from the designs that were discussed last summer.

“SGA has had an advisory role to this project throughout the design process going back more than 10 years,” said Nick Wellkamp, undergraduate student body president. “More recently, starting last summer, SGA has been working with the architects and the final planners to make sure that the aesthetics of the building fit in with the rest of campus.”

“We want this building to be truly representative of the Institute and the preeminent academic building of campus. We want to be able to convey that message from the outside as well,” said Brandon Kearse, a member of the SGA advisory group.

As with many of the new buildings that have gone up over the last few years, sustainability is a major focus in the design of the CULC.

“We want this building to be the most sustainable on campus,” said Howard Wertheimer, director of Space Planning.

Last year, one of the buildings designed by the architectural firm hired for the CULC project was selected as one of the 10 most sustainable buildings in the United States.

In late fall, a sustainability expert was hired to assist the architectural firm with sustainability issues, and the shape of the building changed significantly.

“As a result a more holistic approach to design of spaces, water issues and renewable energy has been taken,” Wertheimer said. Despite the additional changes made to improve the CULC’s sustainability, the building is still expected to remain under the originally stated budget.

“Much of the work until now has been about making sure that the interior and layout of the building is right. Now that is complete and we are focusing on the exterior,” Kearse said.

The CULC is expected to extend north of the current library parking lot, taking over some of the lawn in front of the Architecture Building. The space will then be used as a Stinger turnaround.

As for Atlantic Dr., it will be transformed into a pedestrian walkway once the building is completed.

SGA is continuing to work with the planning and design to make the CULC a more aesthetically pleasing building for campus.

“We’re having ongoing meetings with the architects, President Schuster, alumni and other stakeholders to make sure that the effect that the building has on the center of campus is a positive one…. We think that we will reach a final design very soon,” Wellkamp said.

He also noted that any changes made to the design of the building would be done within the current budget and no delays are foreseen as a result of these additional changes. The work currently being done at the build site is work that does not rely on a final design for the CULC’s exterior. This is why it has started before a final exterior design has been finalized.

When the building is finished, all of the freshman and sophomore labs, tutoring and all of the undergraduate support services will be located in the CULC. In addition, the third and fourth floors of the CULC will sit level with the basement of the library, allowing students to easily move back and forth from the library.

“This building is going to fundamentally transform the center of campus, and we want to make sure it does a very good job of that,” Kearse said.