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BOV committee approves building construction revision

By Sookhan Ho

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 22 - February 29, 1996

The university will change its plans for a brick-and-stone fitness-and-health-services center to pursue an alternative with an all-stone exterior. The switch was made in response to the strong preference for traditional Hokie stone expressed by several members of the Board of Visitors' Buildings and Grounds Committee, which met last Monday.

The proposed $20.5-million Student Health and Fitness Center is to be located at the intersection of West Campus Drive and Washington Street. To be paid for by student fees, the L-shaped, 130,000-square-foot facility will house the student health service (including counseling), a recreational swimming pool, a three-court gymnasium space, an elevated jogging track, weight rooms, and multipurpose spaces for aerobics and other activities.

The university's original choice of using a combination of Hokie stone and brick, with some precast-concrete ornamental elements, was primarily based on the "transitional" nature of the location on campus, adjacent to brick structures. Also, stone construction is almost twice as expensive as brick. Responding to reservations about the use of brick that committee members expressed at an earlier meeting, the university asked the project's architecture/engineering firm, Ayers/Saint/Gross of Baltimore, Md., to investigate the cost of several options for the exterior.

The firm estimated that it would add up to $1.13 million to the cost to build an all-stone exterior. An all-stone building would still be cheaper than either one of two other options involving a part-stone building where pre-cast concrete would be substituted for brick, each of which would tack on $1.39 million to the budget, according to the firm's estimates. (The estimates reflect a consideration of the architectural and structural feasibility of the various options, professional design and documentation fees, and the necessary schedule extensions and associated escalation costs.)

When committee member Rod Layman asked about funding the added cost of an all-stone building, vice president for finance and treasurer Ray Smoot said that Executive Vice President Minnis Ridenour had advised that funding should not be the only factor considered in reaching the decision to use stone; state procedures permit increases of up to 10 percent of the original budget in capital project costs. Further, Ridenour has said that consideration should also be based on maintaining campus tradition in using stone and on paying for the cost of stone construction over the life of the facility.

The project, five months behind schedule, was estimated to be completed in the spring of 1998. Committee members acknowledged that the change of course would create further delays (arising from redesign and resubmission for state approval) in addition to requiring further expense, but were almost unanimous in favoring an all-stone exterior.

Committee member and civil engineering graduate student Dan Waddill abstained from the four-member committee's motion to pursue the redesigned exterior. Waddill said that although students would appreciate a nice-looking building, they "were more concerned about what they're going to be doing inside the building." If another million was to be spent on the building, he said, "there's a pretty clear consensus among the student body" that it be spent on another gym.

Committee member Donald Huffman responded that students eventually become alumni. "As you become an alumnus, your values change. One of them is the way you view the campus when you come back. My first priority is to try and develop the most beautiful campus there is. We have the setting for it."

As for campus-beautification efforts currently under way, Spencer Hall, assistant vice president for facilities, reported that landscaping projects to be implemented this spring include the planting of a variety of native hardwood and flowering trees (oak, maple, gum, redbud, and dogwood) on the east side of 460 bypass between Southgate Drive and Prices Fork Road, and near the Corporate Research Center Teleport. Hall said that areas around Major Williams Hall, the new airport terminal, and Dietrick Plaza will also be enhanced with trees, shrubs, and groundcover donated by alumnus Harry Carr ('55) of Roadview Farm Nursery in Gloucester.

Smoot said the removal or burial of above-ground power lines on or near campus would further improve the campus appearance. A stretch of out-of-service power lines along Perry Street will be removed, while lines along Prices Fork Road and West Campus Drive have been buried. The old lines and poles are expected to be removed soon.

Among the other capital projects Hall discussed was the Advanced Communications and Information Technology Center. Hall said that pre-design work has been completed to identify the building's occupants and the dimensions of their assigned space. Schematic design and site analysis are currently under way. In response to concerns about the cost implications of the portion of the building that will arch over the Mall, Smoot said that a detailed report at the committee's next meeting in April will be provided by a representative from the project consultant, Sherertz, Franklin, Crawford, and Shaffner Inc. of Roanoke.

Waddill moved that the committee express its appreciation for the extra effort made by the Physical Plant staff to clear campus roads, parking lots, and walkways during the recent snow storms.