Campus takes an aesthetic toll as Rice prepares to grow
Students moving back on campus this weekend will notice a university far different from the one they left last spring. A number of construction projects at Rice have given the campus the look and feel of a giant work zone, something that students will continue to experience for the next few years.
Duncan College may have just received its new name, but work on both it and McMurtry College has been moving steadily throughout the summer. Assistant Vice President of Facilities, Engineering and Planning Doug Tomlinson said construction crews recently finished the underground utilities work. Both colleges are still scheduled to be finished by May 2009 and ready for habitation by the 2009-2010 academic year.
Outside of routine maintenance work, very little changed within the other nine residential colleges—with one major exception. Tomlinson said Baker College's heating and cooling systems received significant upgrades over the summer, moving from a two-pipe system to a four-pipe system. This change, Tomlinson said, should allow each room to set its own temperature instead of simply having a central climate control for the entire college.
"If you were in a room on the western side of the building [before the upgrades] and you got the afternoon sun, but the rest of the building was on heat you were out of luck," he said. "Now, depending on what the room is calling for, it can have air conditioning or heat."
Students at Wiess College will arrive to a rude awakening: Alumni Drive is closed as work continues on a utilities plant intended to service the Collaborative Research Center. The plant should be completed by July 31,2008,Tomlinson said, butAlumni Drive should be open for public use near the end of the academic year. Until then, the road will only be open to Housing and Dining vehicles to reach the loading dock at Wiess.
The CRC is also progressing. Tomlinson said workers have begun pouring concrete for the first level of the underground parking garage.
The pavilion next to Fondren Library is behind schedule. Set to open spring 2008, construction crews have barely broken ground on the project. Tomlinson blamed the torrential downpours Houston received over the summer for the delays but said he believes the pavilion will still open on time.
"Given that we had to endure [the rainy season], we're not as far along as we want to be, but once they got in there and got started they're going gangbusters," he said. "We're still going to finish in the spring of next year, March or April of next year. I would like to have been farther along than we are, but we’ll catch up. ... Everyone knows they can't waste any time."
One project that will require some tricky maneuvering is Autry Court. A quick glance from the outside may not show any significant progress, but Tomlinson said construction crews have been hard at work demolishing a section of athletic offices and training facilities that linked Autry and Fox Gym. The way the section connects to other parts of the original building necessitated demolition from the inside. Tomlinson said students should expect to see exterior demolition on Autry by the end of September. The Recreation Center will remain open throughout the entire construction process.
As for the new recreation center set to open across from the KMC on Loop Road, Tomlinson said officials are just going into the design aspect. No plans have been drawn up.
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