By Jennifer Johnson
FSU was allocated $9.3 million on Nov. 6 to “balance the budget” for the $74 million Hemenway Hall construction project, according to Executive Vice President Dale Hamel.
In regards to funding for this project, $54 million has been provided by the state through general obligation bonds, for which the commonwealth is responsible.
An additional $12 million was allocated which the university is responsible for paying back “like a mortgage,” according to Hamel. These funds were borrowed through the Massachusetts State College Building Authority.
The most recently allocated $9.3 million is also in the form of general obligation bond support, and this money will make up for some of the backfill renovations, such as updating the existing facilities in the Hemenway Hall Annex – plans which were cut back due to insufficient funds.
FSU is currently advocating for an additional $3 million through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center to fund the remaining renovations in Hemenway Hall.
The science center addition will be four floors and provide eight biology labs, eight chemistry labs, as well as up-to-date equipment. The addition will be 42,000 square feet.
Hamel said another component of this project is upgrading the infrastructure in the existing building. “Hemenway is currently in need of new heating ventilation, air conditioning, electrical and mechanical upgrades.”
According to Hamel, the existing labs need to meet the needs of the other academic departments in Hemenway.
Hamel said there is a need for a new nursing suite, which will be much larger than the one that is currently in Dwight.
Sarah Pilkenton, chair of the chemistry department, said the second floor chemistry labs will be converted into this nursing suite.
Laurie Friedman, administrative assistant of the science departments, said, “Hemenway Hall is old and the labs are old. The biology and chemistry departments are getting new labs. It’s great!”
There will be an upgrade to the chemistry department’s instrument lab. Pilkenton said, “Our current instrument lab isn’t set up the best way.” The upgrade will accommodate the instruments currently being used.
Pilkenton said the labs in the new science building are more advanced. “This will be great for our students. ... We’ll be able to do different and better labs.”
Some of the existing labs do not have enough outlets to allow for everyone to work. The upgrades will allow for more students to work in the lab at one time.
According to Pilkenton, “the one negative thing” in regards to the new science center is that there will be no teaching space. There are only benches for workspace. This is problematic because the benches are not quite the same as regular desks.
Pilkenton said when the safety equipment is upgraded, it will make a major difference in the labs that students can perform. The new organic chemistry labs will have eight safety hoods. This will allow more students to participate actively in labs.
Richard Beckwitt, a biology professor, said, “The most obvious differences with these buildings are the weight limits.” Apparently, several major pieces of equipment located in the Hemenway Annex exceed the weight limits of the floors.
According to Beckwitt, there is one piece of equipment that cannot be moved. “It is grandfathered where it is now. ... These were the situations that allowed us to apply for an updated building.”
Large-scale projects are funded through general obligation bonds. According to Hamel, “A general obligation is an obligation of the commonwealth. Taxpayers pay those bills, and the legislature passes the bond bill saying, ‘Yes, the state can spend this money.’”
Hamel added, “The legislature likes to authorize a lot of projects.” Had the science project not gotten on the commonwealth’s five-year capital spending plan, it would have never happened.
Hamel said there are three phases to a large-scale project like the Hemenway Hall addition: study, design and construction.
According to Hamel, the state legislature decides what is affordable to fund by applying the state’s debt policy. The current debt policy for Massachusetts states that 7 percent of general income can be spent on debt services for capital projects.
Hamel said, “Basically, the state can back into how much they plan to spend in debt service, which then relates to how much they can spend on new projects.”
He added that the goal is to get a proposal accepted by the legislature and “then convince the administration to add your project to the five-year capital spending plan.”
According to Hamel, “There are a lot more authorizations on the books than the commonwealth could ever fund.” This is why it was so important for the project to be added to the five-year capital spending plan.
In order to keep the project moving, Hamel said the study phase needed to be conducted immediately. The bond bill was passed in 2009 and FSU received approval through the Board of Higher Education to proceed with the study.
Hamel said, “We told them, in order for us to get a jump on all of the other projects in the bond bill, that we would fund the study for the science project in order to get it moving. This was how the project would be added to the spending plan early on.”
The study phase identified two projects in the FSU Capital Master Plan. The first project was a new residence hall, which resulted in the construction of North Hall. The other need was for additional science facilities.
Hamel said, “When the study phase was completed, the Vnal cost estimate that came in was very close to the authorization that was passed by the legislature at $54 million.”
In 2010, the study phase was completed, and the project was moving forward. According to Hamel, “There was an academic program plan. We had an approach we were going to take, and we had a cost estimate that we could afford.”
Hamel said that next came the design phase. “This is the time when the contractor gets on board and the architect is hired through DCAMM (Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance) in order to do the construction management of the design phase.”
Hamel said the following locations were taken into consideration for the location of the science center addition: the Crocker Hall site, the west end of Hemenway Hall, the north end of Hemenway Hall, and the east end of Hemenway Hall.
The east end of Hemenway Hall was ultimately chosen as the most practical and affordable location for the new science building.
Hamel said, “This is where the current science labs are. It keeps new labs close to old labs and makes sense in the facility.”
Fairbanks said, “Everyone has a voice in the decision. Usually, the driving factor is the programmatic needs.” The population the addition will serve was one of the most important components in determining the location, according to Fairbanks.
Hamel said there were two components to the final decision. “We needed 16 new labs, and we also looked at renovating the old science labs. However, it is very expensive to come in and renovate something that is already in place.
“It did not work out due to the heights of the ceilings. We would also be renovating while trying to use the same facility, which is obviously problematic.”
During the design phase, there was another cost estimate performed and according to Hamel, “We were $20 million over budget on what we thought would be a $54 million budget.”
Associate Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning Warren Fairbanks said, “The original allocation of funds was quite a bit less than what we actually need.”
The main reason the project was over budget was because the costs were estimated during the economic downturn of 2008 when the prices were lower.
According to Hamel, the other main reason for being over budget was “additional costs that were identified by the contractor. ... We also needed to bring the new facility to meet current codes and they have requirements that are very specific.”
In order for the budget to be brought back down to a cost that was within reach, Hamel said the decision was made to reduce funds for infrastructure components and renovation of the existing facility. “To get the project done, we will knock off pieces one at a time, or when we have to in order to address the costs.”
According to Hamel, in order to balance the budget for the project, FSU had to approach the legislature again. “We went to the legislature and got a bill passed that allowed us to get funds from the building authority.”
He added that this allowed for FSU to borrow $10 million. This additional funding – paired with the postponement of the Annex renovations – created a “balanced budget.”
Hamel said that there was one more snag in the budget. “When we got to the end of construction documents, we were $2 million over.” Ultimately, FSU had to borrow another $2 million dollars to fulfill the project’s cost.
In regards to the possibility that the cost might increase over the next two years, Hamel said, “These prices are basically locked in. There are contingencies built into the budget because you never know what you’re going to find. ... There is a possibility that those contingencies are not sufficient, but at this point there is a good chance that they are.”
According to Hamel, the first component of the construction was the reconstruction of the two
entrances of Hemenway Hall.
Hamel said, “You used to have to go in and then up a set of stairs to get into the building or down a set of stairs – not very accessible.”
The plan for the front entrance was to add a ramp for accessibility. The one that was there previously “did not meet the current code, so it had to come out,” according to Hamel.
The plan for the side entrance is to lower the door to the building so that there will now be access to the ground floor.
The front entrance to the Hemenway Hall Annex is “essentially done,” said Hamel. However, he added that when the front entrance to Hemenway is complete, the Annex entryway will be closed up again “in order to address some small issues.”
Hamel said that the construction on the entrances has been extensive due to the switching of
contractors. “State projects have to go to the low bidder, and this project clearly was over the original guy’s head.”
Hamel made it clear that the new contractor, Barr & Barr, is a much better fit for the entirety of the project.
Fairbanks said that Barr & Barr is invested in the project.
Hamel said, “By mid-November these early phase projects will be done.”
The shoring process, currently in progress, is necessary to create the foundation of the new science building. Shoring provides safety by supporting walls to prevent collapse during construction.
The shoring process was not taken into account when the original design of the building was created. Hamel said that the shoring process “required significant additional funds for scope put in by DCAMM as it related to accessibility issues.”
According to Fairbanks, what comes next in the construction phase will be pouring the foundation. Fairbanks said the cement pouring should be done before mid-winter. Due to the ongoing construction, Hemenway Hall will be shut down during the summers of 2014 and 2015.
Friedman said, “There won’t be biology or chemistry labs during the summer.” She added, “They will accommodate professors who will need to get in the building.”
Fairbanks said that all of Hemenway Hall will be a hard hat area during those summers. Professors will be allowed in the building only with a hard hat and a chaperone.
Beckwitt said, “Two thousand students every year try to do research in this building. ... Construction has forced professors to accommodate to this disruption of classes during the summer.”
Beckwitt added that professors have given research projects that grant students the opportunity to work outside of the labs to complete their work. This will allow some students to continue the projects they would be completing during the summer in Hemenway Hall.
Hamel admitted that the construction has recently been an annoyance around campus. “Hopefully, as the weather turns, people won’t have their windows open as much. All the beeping and backing up is so loud.”
Some students and faculty are frustrated with construction-related noise. Hamel said, “This will be the bad academic year, if you will.” He added the worst of the noise “will be over with by spring.”
Audra Mickunas, a lab technician, said at times, there is a lot of noise. “One day, one of our faculty members was holding class and one of the machines smashed the window.”
Mickunas said she is not distracted by the construction. “I’m not really concerned with it right now as long as another window is not smashed and a ceiling doesn’t fall on us.”
Charles Rinaldo, a junior fashion major, said, “I think it is a pain because I have all 8:30s. It is distracting and takes away from my work and sleep. I have woken up many times to the sounds of construction.” Rinaldo added, “A lot of students and faculty can’t focus in Hemenway. It doesn’t allow for people to concentrate in class.”
Robert Donnell, a geography professor, said it was noisier early in the semester, but it can still be disturbing. “The machines are so close we’ve had exhaust come in through the windows.”
Beckwitt agreed that construction has been annoying. However, he said it is necessary. “You can’t accomplish something of this magnitude without a lot of work. It’s a lot of time, effort, disruption – all those things have to happen.”
Many FSU students are perturbed that the new science center will be located where Larned Beach used to be.
Dan Cabral, a junior communication arts major, said, “I liked Larned Beach. A new science building doesn’t benefit me in the least. If anything, it has hurt my experience here.”
Jim Menard, a junior environmental science major, said, “It is a bummer because we don’t have a lot of open space on this campus. It was nice to have that space since we are in an urban area. Now, it doesn’t seem like there’s room for resident students to hang out.”
Mel Yazejian, a business administration major, said, “It’s a huge inconvenience and it took away from the available open space for students to enjoy the outdoors.”
Amy Knapp, a biology professor, said that it is disappointing to lose the space, but “I just accept that that’s what has to happen.”
Fairbanks said even if a different site had been used, Larned Hill would have had to hold the equipment and trucks because the campus has such limited space.
Additionally, the Fire Department required a much larger pathway to be constructed between the library and the new addition. Larned Hill was lowered in order to make the building accessible from all four sides.
According to Fairbanks, “By taking the hill down about eight feet, we were able to get accessible pathways.” This allows for the building to be completely available by vehicle.
Friedman said, “Razing the hill and pulling out all the trees was sad.”
However, there will be a large number of trees, shrubs, and groundcovers added throughout campus in order to make up for the loss of trees.
According to Fairbanks, the Facilities Department will be planting 99 trees, 128 shrubs and 1,172 pachysandra plants. These will be placed all throughout campus, but will mostly be part of the new landscape when the construction is done.
Fairbanks said, “Were trying in general to move away from manicured landscapes into more natural and native sustainable landscapes that take care of themselves. It’s a whole change in attitude for the campus because the campus has been historically maintained like a park.”
Some students and faculty are concerned that FSU’s campus may not be as appealing once the building is complete.
Charlotte Zampini, a biology professor, said, “To lose something like this [Larned Beach] will be substantial if the landscaping is not done correctly when the construction is finished.”
Timothy Liddell, a junior geography major, said, “If the landscaping is not done correctly, this will not be a good addition to campus. I don’t think the building will be a nice fit on campus.”
The oak trees that were located on Larned Hill were about 170 years old. Last spring, these trees were cut down and the wood is being used in the renovation of the Mayflower II.
The Mayflower II was constructed in 1957 and is a replica of the original Mayflower that was built in 1620. The ship is located in Plymouth, Mass. and available to visitors.
According to Communication Arts Chair Derrick TePaske, there was additional money added to the project in order for this to occur.
TePaske said, “Some of that wood will be part of the boat.” TePaske is creating a commemorative miniature vessel that will stand 18 inches tall, as well as a ceremonial mace that will be used during commencement.
A commencement mace is a staff made of metal or wood normally held by the eldest faculty member during the ceremony in order to represent authority.
TePaske said, “The old mace was unappealing.” There are multiple people working on the design of the new mace.
Vice President for Enrollment and Student Development Susanne Conley, Professor of Art John Anderson, and some students who are interested in 3-D design will be creating the mace.
The new science center is eliciting a range of responses from the Framingham State community.
Kyle Collins, a junior biology major, said, “I’m really excited to get a new building. It will be a nice addition to the campus. Hopefully, I’ll be able to use the new labs before I graduate, because they will be a huge improvement from what we have now.”
Eric Foley, a junior communication arts major, said, “I’m not a science major, and I have no benefits from this new addition. I think the school could have used the money more effectively by investing in new dorms. The construction is an annoyance to the entire university.”
Bianca Murphy, a senior food and nutrition major, said, “Something like this should have come a long time ago. It is both disappointing and depressing that the faculty have had to wait for an upgraded building. The idea of expanding on the sciences is worth it. It doesn’t matter what we pay – this has been needed!”
Sean Pedersen, a senior biochemistry major, said, “This is absolutely worth the money being put into it. I think we’re overdue. It’s needed with the programs we offer.”
Pederson added, “Even though this is the most money the school has spent over the past couple of years, it is certainly the best investment.”
Chemistry Department Chair Pilkenton said this building “shows Framingham is investing in the sciences. This building puts it out there like a shining glass beacon.”