Estimate Says New Human Ecology Building Under Budget

April 22, 2011 12:00 am0 comments
Elaine Lin

The construction of the new College of Human Ecology building and the renovation of Martha Van Rensselaer Hall continues on schedule — with the opening date set for late July 2011 — and under budget, according to Jim Kazda, project manager and director of Contract College Facilities.

“The space will transform some functions of the college and will integrate the study of science with design,” said Prof. Kay Obendorf, fiber science and apparel design, senior associate dean of research and graduate education.

Originally, the University’s Board of Trustees approved a budget of $77.7 million for the project, but the current cost estimate for the new building is $71.7 million, Kazda said. One reason the cost was under budget, he said, was because buying building materials locally lowered prices.

The new building will add 87,000 square feet to the Human Ecology College, and it will include a car garage with a capacity for 250 automobiles.

The additional space will house the fiber science and apparel design department, as well as a state-of-the-art wood and metal shop and an assembly studio, according to Obendorf.

Furthermore, there will be new studios for research and teaching — specifically for computer-aided design and human ecology courses that draw from chemistry and biology.
In addition to teaching and research space, the new building will contain a two-story “commons,” which will connect the new Human Ecology building to Martha Van Rensselaer. The “commons” will provide community space and a new exhibition gallery for showcasing art, according to Obendorf.

The space was initially designed collaboratively and competitively by ten Design and Environmental Analysis students. The College later hired three of those ten students to work with the architectural team Gruzen Samton to finish the design and specifications for the project, according to Prof. Leah Scolere ’03, design and environmental analysis, consultant and studio professor for the student team.

“I can’t think of a better culmination of our learning experience than the creation of a space that would enable future students like ourselves to reach these similar goals. Perhaps most importantly, the commons project demonstrated that we were graduating with the ability to create dynamic, effective spaces that would benefit a client with sophisticated needs. As a result, we left as more confident and competent designers,” said Abbey Kesten ’10, who majored in DEA.

Students across the college echoed Kesten’s sentiments.

“As a Human Ecology student, I think the atrium is a great idea because it would really help to connect people within Human Ecology, so that we have one focal point where we can meet and work together,” said Fariha Ahsan ’13, who is majoring in biology and society with a minor in policy analysis and management. 

Faculty also expressed excitement about the changes.

“[Faculty members] have had input into the design of the building, and — as far as we can tell before we actually see it — I think that for the most part our wishes have been taken into consideration in the design of spaces,” said Fiber Science and Apparel Design Prof. Charlotte Jirousek, director of undergraduate students. “We feel that for display of design work and coherence of the design teaching spaces, this new space will be exciting for both students and faculty.”

The landscape transformation around the new and old buildings will focus on softening the presence of the car garage, which may aesthetically clash with surrounding buildings, and enhancing the inner courtyard connected to the “commons,” according to Kazda.

As part of the ongoing effort toward environmental sustainability, the College of Human Ecology chose to pursue Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design accreditation for the design and construction of the new Human Ecology building, according to Kazda.

According to the College of Human Ecology website, the LEED ranking system for new buildings takes into account sustainable sites, efficient and conservative water, energy and resource strategies and innovative design process strategies.

Implementing low flow plumbing in the new facility, which will result in saving 20 to 30 percent more water, installing combined heating and power systems, which will save 21 to 31.5 percent more energy, using locally purchased building materials, recycling the majority of construction waste, and receiving aid from Human Ecology students’ research in design decisions are just a few measures taken by the College to ensure a green and LEED Accreditation-worthy facility, Kazda said.

“For the designers, ensuring the environmental friendliness of the building has become more an element of their work … and the costs are fairly insignificant. And these measures taken to meet LEED guidelines are really part of good design,” Kazda said.

Although they were originally working toward a LEED Gold Certification, Kazda said the new facility may achieve LEED Platinum Certification.

“The new building will really embody the Human Ecology spirit in that we’re always looking ahead to the future, while still taking pride in our roots and where we come from,” said Dan Kuhr ’13, Human Ecology representative on Cornell Student Assembly.