It is actually going to happen. After years of speculation, debate, and blueprints, construction will begin on two brand new residence halls this spring. The final spot for the two state-of the-art dorms is the intersection of Maple and First Street across from the LDC.
This location trumped other options, such as the area behind Goodhue or as a replacement to the Cowling Gymnasium. As might be expected from such a large project, coming to an agreement on the building site was one of many challenges that delayed breaking ground. “There are two factions at play” Rob Lamppa, the senior project manager said. “There’s Residential Life, which is concerned with the student space and ensuring it is as comfortable as possible, and the Carleton administration, which is trying to reduce cost and to minimize construction time.” Lamppa is the first to acknowledge that this pressure led to more dynamic and efficient layouts, but he also regrets the several month delay caused as a result and the now compressed construction schedule. Nevertheless, he is confident that students will be able to move in as early as the fall of 2009, or as late as winter term of 2010.
Students, by their junior or senior year, have the opportunity to live in either the traditional style dorm made up largely of singles and doubles, or a more “independent living” building composed of quint and quad suites. According to Lamppa, the idea for the exterior appearance of the dorms, which will closely resemble that of Nourse and Evans, is “not to copy the old but to preserve that feel.” Students, the administration, and anyone with decent vision will delight in how little these new dorms will resemble the austere designs of Musser and Myers.
In addition to an “old is the new ‘new’” exterior look, indoor amenities will abound. From washing machines on every floor in each dorm to heated hallway tiles, there will be every incentive to stay inside. Especially in the suite-style dorm but also in the more traditional building, there will be multiple common areas on every floor, as well as study rooms connected to the laundry areas. There will not be, however, a dining hall within the dorms, so residents will be forced to occasionally leave their floors. To make matters even more anti-social, perhaps the most exciting new feature will be the tunnel connecting the two new dorms together. Inter-dorm bonding, especially in the dead of winter, will no doubt be encouraged.However, to ensure that residents do get the proper amount of sunlight, designers went to great lengths to incorporate the natural surroundings into the facilities. Radiation areas on south-facing walls will naturally heat the rooms as they absorb the sun, while white roof panels will reflect away unwanted rays. Solar water heating will be one of the most innovative energy efficient measures. In addition, solar panels along the building will heat up an anti-freeze-like substance called glycol, which will indirectly heat adjacent water pipes. This will then require furnaces to only marginally increase the water temperature, rather than heat it all the way, and in doing so greatly cut down on energy costs. Various green-friendly measures such as these are why the new buildings will surpass modern energy standards.
Even though only one of the buildings will have larger suite-style rooms, designers such as Lamppa anticipate that most upperclassman will flock to both brand new dorms. The idea, according to Lamppa, is to “move approximately 210 beds and unpack Watson Hall and turn those cramped triples back into doubles, and in the long term, move students out of Laird Stadium and Faculty Club.” Another hope is to move seniors, who mostly live off campus or on the west side, to the predominantly underclassmen-inhabited east side of campus.Lamppa and the building designers appear to be happy with how the project has turned out, but according to Rachel English, a member of the project’s student approval committee, the student body needs to respond. “I think the most important thing now is that students get their opinions to the committee members. What do they like? What don't they like?” English encourages students to take a look at the building’s blueprint in upper Sayles, and to fill out the comment cards regarding any opinion they might have on the project.
The attentive upperclassmen may also realize that even if they do not get into one of the new dorms, it is likely that the town houses, Severance Hall, and other places currently in high demand will become much more accessible. Unlike the townhouses, however, which were only meant to be around for a decade or two, Lamppa says he is planning for these new dorms to “be around for the next hundred years.” Judging by the way many Carls spend their weekend evenings, they may only hope to be so lucky.