Setting Benchmarks in Student Accommodations
With private residential management companies bringing a new kind of competition to the nation’s top universities, keeping campuses attractive has never been more important.
Walbridge has played an integral role in fulfilling the University of Michigan’s Residential Life Initiatives (RLI) program, which began in 2004 and aims to modernize dormitories throughout its Ann Arbor, Mich., campus. In fall of 2012, we wrapped up the $44.5 million reconstruction of Alice Lloyd Residence Hall, the youngest of four student dormitories located in the campus’ Hill neighborhood. Built in 1949, Alice Lloyd is one of four residence halls Walbridge restored through the program. Its renovation proved to be the most involved.
Walbridge created new spaces on the lower level and first floor of the 168,000-square-foot building that include an art studio, multiple open lounge areas, small and large group study rooms, a house kitchen and small dining room, a living room with a fireplace, meeting rooms and a resource room. High-end furnishings and energy-efficient fixtures were incorporated throughout the renovation.
The project also brought improvements to plaster, new flooring in dorm rooms and all new bathrooms in student living quarters. The team integrated individualized climate control systems in each dorm room, improved information technology infrastructure throughout the building and installed all new mechanical systems, including upgraded electrical and fire suppression systems.
Challenges and Solutions
Before implementing the new spaces, Walbridge had to completely demolish the building’s two lowest floors. Creating the additional spaces and increasing heights in existing spaces was the biggest challenge, requiring the project team to remove columns and span existing tunnels while maintaining safe work environments inside and outside the building. This required implementing temporary shoring techniques, reinforcing beams and adding extra structural elements.
All of the work had to be done without impacting Alice Lloyd’s neighbor, the historic Detroit Observatory (built in 1854 and lauded as the oldest observatory of its kind in the United States). The observatory houses a celebrated telescope still in operation and other sensitive equipment. To avoid any disruptions, the team installed a vibration monitoring system on the historic structure. Walbridge met with observatory representatives to discuss the measures and explain how the vibration system worked. In addition, the team conducted regular tests to make sure construction activities weren’t effecting observatory equipment, or the structure itself.
The other three student residence halls on the Hill were fully operational and occupied during the renovation of Alice Lloyd, which added challenges in the form of daily construction activity times. Walbridge worked with laborers to adjust hours in a way that wouldn’t affect the project’s budget. As opposed to starting shifts at 7 a.m., workers agreed to begin at 10 a.m. and work later into the evening. Walbridge delivered the completed project within a fast-track, 14-month schedule.
As with all of the work our teams do for higher education clients, schedule plays a very important role. The project team first arrived at Alice Lloyd in May 2011, just as students were leaving the building for the summer. By July the following year, the first occupants of the newly designed and modernized Alice Lloyd began moving in.
Walbridge garnered a Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) Michigan Voluntary Protection Program STAR Safety Award for its performance at Alice Lloyd.