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Summer renovations brighten up buildings

September 21, 2006

Students and staff returning to UW-River Falls fall semester were greeted by a host of major renovations to campus buildings.

North Hall received a facelift in the form of brand new windows, which are framed white like the building’s original windows.

The previous windows were replaced because they were not energy efficient, said UW-RF Facilities Engineer Jim Murphy. In addition to leaking cold air, panels attached to the top of the older windows were blocking sunlight from entering the building, he said.

“The new windows allow a much brighter environment and give the building a more historical appearance,” Murphy said.

According to Murphy, North Hall’s stone exterior was also cleaned to “enhance” its look. North Hall staff seems pleased with the work.

“I think [the windows] lighten things up from an aesthetic standpoint,” said Assistant Registrar Rich Kathan. “Hopefully they’ll be good for insulation.”

University Services Associate Flossie Hughes agreed, stating that the building looked more “stately” with the new windows.

“They’ve brightened insides of offices and classrooms,” Hughes said. “It’s really enhanced the look of this building.”

South Hall received some much needed repair to its foundation, in addition to brand new exterior doors.

Crews excavated the length of the building, applied plaster to the foundation wall, and installed a water-proofing membrane. The storm drain was extended to the roof drain to “help prevent any water from getting into the foundation,” Murphy said.

The exterior doors were replaced due to “problems with [the] door hardware,” he said. Instead of the old tan hue, they are now a darker shade.

The North and South Hall projects had a budget of about $400,000, he said. This budget also included the Kleinpell Fine Arts building renovation that took place last summer, when all of the building doors were replaced.

The money for the projects came from the Department of Administration, a building commission authority in Madison that approves funding for larger projects on the UW-RF campus. The money is generated through tax revenue.

Admissions Program Assistant Cori Fosmo is a fan of the South Hall doors.

“I like them,” Fosmo said. “The color is much better than the lighter color. It goes better with the building.”

“They improve the building in terms of visual appeal,” said Associate Marketing Professor Darryl Miller. “I hope they do the windows someday.”

Extensive improvements were made to May, Prucha, North and South Halls over the summer. Other residence halls received some minor upgrades.

Budgeted at $1.8 million, the bathroom remodeling project at May and Prucha was perhaps the most ambitious renovation undertaken.

Construction crews knocked down walls to increase bathroom size, replaced toilets and all plumbing and piping, and installed new light fixtures. The communal showers were replaced with facilities offering students more privacy.

The bathrooms were chosen for renovation because they were “dated” and showing signs of deterioration, said UW-RF Senior Facilities Engineer Tim Thum. Both May and Prucha are more than 40 years old, which Thum cited as another reason for the total bathroom overhaul.

“Typically after 40 years, shower pans start to leak and plumbing and piping gets plugged up,” Thum said.

A second bathroom was also added onto each floor of May and Prucha. This was done due to the possibility of the halls having co-ed residential floors in the future, Thum said. Because both May and Prucha were completely closed during the summer, crews were able to get “two years worth of work squeezed into one,” said UW-RF Building Maintenance Craft Supervisor Greg Koehler.

According to UW-RF Director of Student Life Facilities Mike Stifter, the bathroom renovation was funded by a process called bonding. Similar to a home loan or mortgage, a bond is money borrowed against the state. Borrowers agree to pay the bond back within a certain number of years.

The bond for the May and Prucha bathroom project has a payback time of 20 years, Stifter said.

May and Prucha also received smaller improvements. In addition to being painted, dorm rooms received new furniture, closet shelving and overhead lighting. The hallways and lounges were newly carpeted and building pipes fitted with new insulation. Both halls also had new doors and locks installed. May had its apartment kitchens remodeled and new electrical devices installed.

Other residence halls were revamped on a smaller scale.

Dorm rooms in the west wing of Grimm Hall were painted, and the hallways and lounges carpeted. The Johnson Hall apartment kitchens were remodeled, and Hathorn Hall received new electrical devices.

The improvements were made as part of an ongoing maintenance plan, Koehler said. The estimated budget for these renovations, including the smaller ones in May and Prucha, was between $2 and $2.5 million, Stifter said.

The funding for the residence hall renovations comes from Residence Life. A division of Student Services, the Residence Life program is financed by fees taken out of students’ room and board costs.

The campus reaction to the improvements appears to be positive.

May resident Jessica Anderson said the new furniture and bathrooms makes her “not mind living in the dorms.”

“They are really nice and I am very glad I chose to live here,” she said.

“I like the showers,” said Prucha resident Matt Muraski, citing the roominess and privacy as reasons. Muraski’s only complaint was that there are no urinals in the new bathrooms.
According to Campus Planner Dale Braun, the west wing of Hathorn Hall will have its bathrooms remodeled next summer.

Other possible projects in the works are a new physical education building, and the addition of two wings to the George R. Field South Fork Suites, he said.

“For students here, the renovations provide a clean, attractive place to study,” Braun said. “It’s their home, and we want their home to be nice and comfortable.”