Spaulding Hall, the longtime science hall and life services center of the University of New Hampshire (UNH), joins its fellow UNH science facilities as it too continues to bring its nearly six-decade old foundation into the new millennium. 

The ongoing renovations, costing a grand total of $86 million – the most expensive renovation thus far – not only fully refresh the hall’s 83,000 sq. ft. of classrooms, labs and lecture halls, but also include a brand-new 50,000 sq. expansion that includes a new front “face” featuring new wall graphics and digital displays showcasing the hall’s commitment to science teaching and research, according to University Architect and Director of Campus Planning, Doug Bencks. 

More specifically, according to an Aug. 13 email from Bencks to The New Hampshire, the project aims to resolve issues stemming from a long list of “tired building components” in place and essentially unchanged since the building’s construction in 1960 – such as its power, heating and cooling systems – as well as accommodating the hall to meet the more modern needs of its biological and neuroscience teaching facilities and research labs. Spaulding’s last renovation was a partial one in 1996, with no full renovations done to it since its original construction. 

“The goal is to increase the number of students who graduate in majors related to these disciplines by addressing some of the existing enrollment bottlenecks that are due to the significant limitations of existing biological and neuroscience labs,” he wrote. 

Regarding the labs, Bencks explained that they will be better equipped to adapt to “contemporary teaching methods” and feature greater flexibility to allow for “new focuses of research that will provide experiential learning for students who work in them.” 

As previously reported by The New Hampshire in April, the project consists of two phases. The first consists of the 50,000 sq. ft. expansion – an L-shaped addition that will face the Paul Creative Arts Center (PCAC) – which showcases the new entrance, new labs, faculty offices and a public corridor. The second phase focuses on refreshing the building’s original 83,000 sq. ft.; when completed, Spaulding 2.0 will measure approximately 133,000 sq. ft. 

Bencks said at the time that a major issue facing him and his team since the beginning was that each half of the project could only be completed while the other was occupied. Thus, once the 50,000 sq. ft. expansion is completed, classes and research usually held in the original building will be moved to the new addition until the project reaches completion. 

In his Aug. 13 email, Bencks noted that Spaulding’s renovations and upgrades have been on the construction agenda for over a decade, a small part of a larger campus-wide project to modernize all of its science and engineering facilities. The overall project started in 2007 with upgrades to DeMeritt, James, Kingsbury and Parsons Halls through a state-funded initiative. 

“Since then biological science facilities have closed in Kendall Hall, and major renovations were identified for Spaulding and Conant labs,” he wrote. “In 2014 studies were done to evaluate science lab renovation needs in Kendall Hall, Spaulding Hall and Conant Hall. From that study it was determined that it would be best to renovate Spaulding and build replacement labs rather than renovate Kendall and Conant.” 

A follow-up study in 2015 examined options for how to fully utilize the building’s space for expanding its programs and decommissioning outdated labs, while a 2016 study recommended the addition and the hall’s current renovation, calling it “the most cost effective” and “most integrated” solution, according to Bencks. 

That July, the team selected architects from Boston-based firm Ellenzweig to head the project, while schematics were drawn up the following year, per Bencks. 2017 saw the project placed on hold until funding could be secured. While the project was listed as the “highest priority for State Capital Appropriations for the entire University System” since 2016, per the email, it was not until April 2018 that the Board of Trustees approved of both the project and UNH’s funding contribution, which totals approximately $51 million.  

The team still awaits State funding for the Spaulding renovations, and have requested $35 million over six years, Bencks wrote. 

As previously reported by The New Hampshire in April, the project’s utility construction began over the summer, while the new addition is set to begin construction this fall.