By Steven Bonini
Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning Patricia Whitney said the facilities department is focused on renovations to the Henry E. Whittemore Library, the McCarthy Center, and May Hall.
A major project Whitney said is on her department’s agenda is ceiling renovations in the Henry E. Whittemore Library, as the ceilings there are fairly old, and are starting to wear out.
She said the ceilings are called “tectum” and people often refer to them as “horse-hair ceilings” because of their follicle-like design.
“They don’t look like a smooth ceiling,” she said. “They have all this leg hair-looking stuff on them.
“Over time, they’re really starting to decay, and so we’ve had them tested. There’s nothing hazardous in them, but they start to flake,” she added.
Whitney said, often, students who are studying in the library will see “little flakes” at their desks.
She said $100,000 will be going toward the ceiling and tile replacements, adding there are 16 different places throughout the library they will be working on – including, but not limited to, offices, classrooms, storage areas, and studios.
The Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) allocates funds to the University for large projects like this each year, she said.
This year, the University was allotted approximately $450,000 for DCAMM projects, which is a stark difference from 2020 when the University received approximately $1,000,000 for DCAMM projects, Whitney said.
While these projects are funded by DCAMM, she said they are still managed by campus staff.
Whitney said emails have been sent to faculty informing them of the ceiling situation – giving them time blocks that let them know when a contractor would like to begin maintenance in particular classrooms. This way, professors can decide when it is best for them to be out of their offices or classrooms.
She anticipates classroom ceiling replacements will be finished by January.
Another major project her department is focused on, also funded by DCAMM, is the roof above the student service center in the McCarthy Center, which is experiencing “on and off roof leaks” even after a repair, she said.
“We looked at it more comprehensively and found there was a chronic problem with what they call ‘flashing.’ It’s everything that goes around the edge,” said Whitney.
Following this discovery, Whitney’s department hired an architect who did some research and designed a solution to the problem.
She said the initial estimate for these repairs was approximately $65,000, but they also tested for asbestos and found that it was present in the roofs, complicating the project, and raising the estimate to approximately $100,000.
The bidding process for contractors for this project will begin sometime this month, she added, clarifying that it isn’t a complete roof replacement that needs to be done.
“It’s replacing the flashing and the edging, basically all the way around the roof, because we’ve been kind of patching a little bit at a time. We get a leak, and we patch it,” she said.
“The poor people up on the fifth floor keep getting little leaks. And so, from a facilities perspective, we’d rather be a little more proactive and try and fix it – not just keep patching it,” she added.
May Hall also remains a point of focus for Whitney’s department, as the construction that has been occurring there is wrapping up.
She said last week, “new gutters” were put in, and some electrical and interior work still needs to be done.
The next phase for May Hall, she said, is “redoing the stairs” as well as putting in new floors.
Whitney said they previously had a problem with the skylights leaking, and it would have been
counterproductive to replace the flooring while there were leaks.
She added the floors are “very old” and “coming apart.” Asbestos was also found in some areas underneath the floors, but she said it isn’t hazardous because it is not airborne.
“If you can picture a tile, it’s solid. If you’re not breaking it up or grinding on it or something, nothing is in the air to breathe,” she added. “They’re solid, they’re encapsulated. It’s not hazardous to anybody to have a tile that contains asbestos until it starts to decay, or until you’re breaking it up – something that would make the asbestos within it go airborne.”
Whitney said this coming summer, they hope to replace the tiling in May Hall and abate the asbestos.
The estimated cost of this project is approximately $250,000 and she said the funding will come from older DCAMM money they were allotted but did not fully spend in prior years.
Whitney said a major project that architects are being hired to design is renovations to Linsley Hall.
She said larger projects for the resident halls are overseen by the Massachusetts State College Building Authority (MSCBA), which provides funding.
The anticipated renovations to Linsley have not been decided, but Whitney said they are looking at room configurations and suite living.
“If nothing else, it needs a facelift,” she said.
Whitney added it will take approximately a year before they complete design ideas, “and then there’s quite a lengthy bidding process that you have to do to follow state guidelines, which sometimes takes another three or four months.”
Contractors for this project will begin bidding in December of 2022, to possibly, January of 2023, she said. Once the contractors are hired, they will begin work after graduation in May 2023, which she called “fairly fast.”
Another part of Whitney’s agenda is upgrades to the campus boilers located at the industrial plant behind the library and Dwight Hall.
She said once a year, they make upgrades to those boilers, and this year, they are spending $20,000 from the operating budget to make the necessary improvements.
The operating budget is meant to pay for smaller projects identified by the University’s Budget Planning Committee (BPC) said Whitney, and this year’s operating budget was capped at approximately $350,000 spending limit.
The boilers will be shut down for two months after commencement in the spring, she added, calling this type of maintenance “critical” because it “provides heat and hot water” to a whole half of the campus.
In addition to these more major projects, there are a series of minor repair, replacement, or upgrade projects Whitney said her department is setting out to accomplish as well.
Her department is currently conducting a “study” for a laboratory in Hemenway Annex 446.
A study is when they spend money to review a project, as they don’t have the money to actually make the improvements, and the review will help them estimate the cost of the upgrades, she said.
The estimated cost of the repairs to the laboratory has yet to be determined, Whitney said, adding, “in laboratories, we’ve got steam lines, and electrical, and vacuum, and gas, and they want more IT equipment. They really want to upgrade the laboratory to better meet the teaching needs of today.”
Other minor projects include lighting improvements to the Dwight Hall theater, upgrades to the campus sprinkler systems, as well as upgrades to the campus generators, she said.
“There’s a lot of stuff we do every year that’s visible to people. You do improvements in labs, you do improvements in the library, but a lot of what we have to spend our money on is the infrastructure or the hidden things – the roofing stuff, the boilers, the water lines underground, the sprinklers,” Whitney said. “There’s a lot of work we do every year, and hundreds of thousands of dollars we spend every year, just in those behind-the-scenes infrastructure things.”