Thornton Hall renovation to finish in summer, Irving Institute construction to complete in fall

Discussions on undergraduate residence construction — projects put on hold during the pandemic — will resume in June.

by Amar Scherzer | 5/11/21 2:05am

5-9-21-dartmouthhallconstruction-nainabhalla

Dartmouth Hall will not be "photogenic" in time for the Class of 2021’s June graduation.

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Despite various pandemic-related setbacks, critical Dartmouth construction projects have continued throughout the spring term, with many expected to reach completion this coming summer or fall. 

According to director of project management services Patrick O’Hern, Thornton Hall’s renovation will conclude by the end of August with normal operations resuming at the start of this upcoming fall term. He added that similar to the renovation of next-door Reed Hall — which finished construction last fall and has been operating at a limited capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions — Thornton Hall went through renewal that improves the building’s accessibility, safety and energy efficiency. 

Both the Irving Institute for Energy and Society and the new Center for Engineering and Computer Science are expected to be operational by the end of this upcoming fall, according to O’Hern. He also mentioned that “unexpected” conditions during the upgrade of the Murdough Hall — a Tuck School of Business building connected to the Institute —  have contributed to the slowing of the Institute’s construction progress.

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said that the COVID-19 pandemic and New Hampshire’s quarantine requirements have caused construction challenges for the College and the town of Hanover, as public health protocols — including the 10-day quarantine requirement and 6-foot social distancing rule for indoor constructions — have created additional hurdles for out-of-state contractors and their employees.

“It was very stressful for the construction companies, the contractors and the subcontractors,” Griffin said. 

O’Hern said his team has adapted to the public health protocols by narrowing active projects to high-priority construction already in motion, adding that “the prudent thing to do was to continue with stringent safety protocols.”

“We could [follow safety protocols] at the engineering building, for example, because all the work was outside,” he said. “[Workers] were erecting steel, so [they] could stay apart. We even at one point had asked workers to remain in the Upper Valley and work over the weekend so they weren’t going back home out of state and then coming back into Hanover every week.”

Facilities, operations and management associate director Timothy McNamara said that because most of his team’s projects are completely outdoors, his team has been able to circumvent significant obstacles related to construction in the pandemic. He noted that a project connecting the municipal sidewalk that ended across from the McLaughlin cluster with North Park Street has been successfully completed.

“The project is important not only because it creates a more complete pedestrian linkage in that area, but also because it really begins to frame the north entrance to campus starting at that North College Street [and] North Park Street intersection,” McNamara said. “I'm really proud of that.” 

Regarding the progress of Dartmouth Hall’s construction, O’Hern wrote in an email statement that the contractor has finished the initial phase of the project — the interior demolition and abatement of any hazardous materials such as asbestos flooring — and is currently adding  structural steel and concrete to support the new interior floor plans. O’Hern added that the restoration of the hall’s bell tower is ongoing, and that the roof of the tower has been reclad with new copper. 

However, O’Hern said Dartmouth Hall would not be “photogenic” in time for the Class of 2021’s June graduation.

Renovations to the Dartmouth Outing Club House will be completed by this June, O’Hern said. He also noted that his team will meet with the Board of Trustees in the same month to discuss undergraduate residence construction projects, which were put on hold last fall.

As vaccinations increase and construction safety protocols loosen, O’Hern said he is excited for many projects to come, including renovations to the Sustainable Living Center and La Casa that will begin this summer. In addition, O’Hern noted that planning for the Hopkins Center for the Arts’s renovation is underway: in March, he said his team received approval from the Board of Trustees to start a schematic design.