Renovations underway on campus

by Alex Fredman | 7/13/18 2:45am

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Renovation projects have been taking place all over campus since the start of the summer term.

by Peter Charalambous / The Dartmouth Staff

With fewer students on campus for the summer term, the College is undertaking several construction projects across campus to lay the groundwork for new buildings and improve conditions in current facilities.

Repairs to existing buildings on campus this term include a new emergency generator for the Class of ’53 Commons, roof replacements for Rollins Chapel and Dick’s House, renovations in Wheeler dormitory, a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in Steele Hall and new fire alarm systems in Alumni Gym and Baker-Berry Library, according to associate vice president for facilities, operations and management Frank Roberts.

At ’53 Commons, crews are working on the north side of the building to construct a new emergency power generator, which will be housed in an enclosure next to the building.

“If we have an extended power outage, we will be able to fully support the operation of ’53 Commons,” Roberts said.

Executive vice president Rick Mills said that construction of the new generator was prompted by a power outage a few years ago that impaired food service for a short time. Once plans for the generator were finalized, he added, an additional use was discovered.

“Once we decided to do that, we realized we could provide more reliable emergency generation to the residence halls [nearby],” Mills explained.

According to Mills and Roberts, the new generator will provide backup power for dormitories located near ’53 Commons, including the Massachusetts Row and Gold Coast clusters. Crews are currently digging in front of North and Mid-Massachusetts Halls to put in new electrical wiring that will connect to the generator.

Across Tuck Mall, the roofs of several buildings north of that street, as well as in other areas, are being outfitted with solar panels.

According to director of engineering and utilities Abbe Bjorklund, installation of solar panels is proceeding at Fahey-McLane, Russell Sage and Silsby Halls. The College plans to have all work completed by Sept. 1. She noted that since Dartmouth uses its own independent electrical grid, the new power from the panels will simply be fed into that system once they become operational.

Mills said that the new solar panels are being funded through a power purchase agreement, in which the solar provider installs the panels and the College pays the provider a set rate for the electricity for six years, after which the College can opt to purchase the panels — an arrangement that Mills added will almost certainly be beneficial.

“Almost always the rate that you are paying is a little lower than the utility you would pay,” Mills said. “And at the end, you get to buy [the panels] and have continued generation.”

Bjorklund also noted that the power purchase agreement allows the College to indirectly benefit from tax incentives from the federal government for renewable energy. Although the College is a nonprofit organization and generally pays little in taxes, the solar company will receive the tax incentives and pass savings on to the College through cheaper service.

“It’s really kind of a win-win for everyone to do it this way, and it’s helping us move the campus to renewability” Bjorklund said.

Another construction site is Steele Hall, which houses the earth sciences, chemistry, geography and environmental studies departments. Roberts said that the building is undergoing a major renovation of the HVAC system, including hot water heating and a modernized control system.

“That project, because of the improvements in the infrastructure, is going to lead to energy conservation savings,” Roberts said, adding that these renovations are scheduled to be completed before the fall term.

A few blocks north of Steele, construction continues on Dana Hall, which has been completely stripped down to its skeleton. Mills said that the building will house the new Frank J. Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies in addition to a new lounge, café and office spaces for College faculty. The $30 million renovation is scheduled for completion in October or November 2019, Mills said.

One area of construction that has not yet been started but should begin work during the summer term is along North Main Street. Mills said that parts of that road between Wheelock and Choate Streets will be torn up for utility work by the town of Hanover. However, Mills noted that the College will simultaneously start laying power and water lines that will be used to support new buildings for the Thayer School of Engineering and the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society on the west end of campus. Mills added that this utility work, costing about $4 million, should continue into the fall term and result in some lane closures during construction.

In terms of upcoming projects, Mills said that the College is in the process of planning renovations to modernize Reed, Thornton and Dartmouth Halls. This process would include the installation of elevators.

Mills also said the College is exploring new potential sites for the construction of additional student dormitories, including the site on which Gilman Hall, which was recently torn down, is located. He noted that in order for current student dormitories to be modernized — and have air conditioning installed — sufficient new dormitory space needs to be built first to accommodate the displaced students.

“We are increasingly factoring into our renewal plans that in today’s world, air conditioning needs to be a part of the picture,” Mills said.