Jordan Shearer | Staff Writer | 3-29-2012
After months of construction-caused chaos, the renovated version of Birch Hall is nearing completion and will be open in the fall semester of 2012 for residents to move in.
It’s the time of year for students to decide which dorm they are going to live in, or whether they are going to live on campus at all, the Department of Residential Life has provided tours of Birch as well as a recent “showroom” open house to give students an idea of what the finished product will look like.
As part of the renovation process, Birch has been updated to include a number of modern features. One of the most important updates, arguably, was the addition of an elevator. Another feature that was added in the process was wireless Internet, which makes it the second wireless dorm on campus–the other being Linden Hall.
Another similarity between Birch and Linden is the design of the rooms themselves. Although they are not suites, they do have movable desks and dressers, a feature that Ayleen Leonhardt, Resident Hall Director of Linden and Birch, said came from the students’ suggestions. She said that before the renovation process began, they had meetings with both Student Senate as well as the residents of Birch at the time to gain input about what changes they would like to see.
“It’s whatever they want to make it,” Leonhardt said in reference to the layout of the rooms.
Another student suggestion was a change in lighting in the rooms. Instead of having a long, single light in the middle of the ceiling, there are two recessed lights right inside the door as well as a ledge with lighting in it slightly further in from the first set of lights.
The design of the bathrooms is a new concept all together. There will be two on each floor, right across from each other with open doors from the hallway. The doors lead into a common area with sinks. There are smaller rooms attached to the common area that contain either a toilet or a shower. Unlike many of the current bathroom stalls and showers on campus, these smaller rooms have full doors with locks, and therefore add additional privacy. Because of that, the bathrooms are not currently designated as “men’s” or “women’s.” However, Leonhardt mentioned that they could be segregated if the floor residents choose to do so.
Dale Ladig, Director of Residential Life, said that the finances for the renovations came primarily through additional students living on campus, stating that every twenty students in the dorms provides an additional $80,000 per year. Because of that, he said “So far we’ve been able to do these projects without increasing student rates beyond the cost of living.”
Now that Birch is close to being finished, Ladig said that there will probably not be any further major renovations for around two years. When that time comes, the repairs will be accomplished according to a hierarchy of what needs to be done instead of a hierarchy of one dorm building over another. Ladig said that the renovations are ordered with “life safety” as the first priority and “building integrity” as the second.