The University of New Hampshire (UNH) just announced its plans for an $86 million renovation to Spaulding Hall. This will be the most expensive project the university has undertaken, and $51 million has already been committed by UNH and the University System of New Hampshire (USNH), which consists of UNH, Keene State College, Plymouth State University and Granite State College. UNH is asking the state to provide the remaining $35 million, which they may not get all at once but over a period of time.
This will be a two-phase project. Phase one consists of building a 50,000 square foot L-shaped addition to the sides facing the Paul Creative Arts Center and Academic Way. This addition will include a new entrance, teaching labs, faculty offices, and a public corridor. The addition will also bring the total square footage of the building to 133,000 square feet of space.
The second phase of the project tackles the existing Spaulding structure. UNH architect Doug Bencks explains that they will be keeping the “bones of the building,” but the inside will be completely redone. The first floor of the building will be primarily research labs with one big lecture hall staying place. The second floor will consist of teaching labs, a lecture hall, collection spaces and a common area where students can relax and do homework. Bencks says the new common area will be about the same size as the one in Hamilton Smith Hall. The top floor will have four more teaching labs as well as a series of graduate student spaces and research labs. On top of these new and upgraded rooms, the construction will also include new heating and cooling, ventilation, fire alarm systems and plumbing systems throughout the building.
“Science buildings are the most complicated buildings for us to build because of the elaborate control systems and air systems related to the chemicals that are used in the sciences,” Bencks said.
Bencks further explained that the construction will be made difficult because of one part of the building always being occupied. While the addition is being built the original Spaulding Hall will remain occupied. When the addition is finished, UNH will move classes that are usually held in Spaulding into either the new addition or into open classrooms in other free spaces around campus.
Spaulding was built in 1960, and while it still serves the university and students well, “It’s getting very tired and very old,” Bencks said. While there were a few smaller renovations done to the building in the 1990s, UNH believes it’s fine for the entire building to get an upgrade.
“The university wants to grow these programs,” Bencks said, referring to the biological science and neuroscience programs that are focused in Spaulding. “There’s a lot of businesses out there that are needing graduates in these areas. The idea is that this will help not only the breath of student desires but also responding to the needs of the state of New Hampshire.”
While the addition to Spaulding is estimated to take about two years, the completion date on the rest of the building depends completely on the state’s funding. Bencks and his team won’t know what kind of funding they will get or how they will be reviewing the money until this summer and the next cycle for founding starts. Bencks is confident that UNH will receive all $35 million that it is asking for because “the governor has been very supportive of this project,” and “talks with the legislature are going very well.” Bencks’ does stress, however, that UNH needs that state funding to complete this renovation in the way they want to.
Students who spend a lot of time in Spaulding Hall were thrilled to hear that the building will be upgraded.
“I have a food policy class in one of the smaller classrooms on the second floor and the room sucks,” sophomore environmental conservation and sustainability major Claire Veitch said. “It’s tiny and have those really bad desks. Everyone’s crammed in and the whole environment makes it hard to concentrate and actually be happy.”
“I only had my intro classes in Spaulding but I spend time in there enough to agree that larger spaces for sitting around would be great,” sophomore wildlife conservation major Michael Schroeder said. “Even adding a computer lab like they have in James or Parsons would be nice.”
Some students are worried about being inconvenienced when getting to or from classes when construction begins, but their need for a better building overrides the annoyances of construction inconveniences they might experience.
“I think that will probably inconvenience a lot of professors with labs in that area,” junior marine biology major Tim Readdean said, “but I do think that Spaulding needs to be renovated. It’s really old and not the cleanest place to be. I think it will help out both the students and professors to have a better place to work.”
Bencks said that students and professors would be able to get around, but there will be an inconvenience since the construction is right in the middle of campus. “We are working those details out to minimize the inconveniences,” Bencks said. “We want to make sure the functionality of the existing building continues.”
Construction for the utility work outside the building is planned to start this summer, and in the fall the construction of the addition will be started.