Although it’s still a year away from completion, the North Campus Village construction on the east side of Siskiyou Boulevard is beginning to take shape, looking more and more like a residence hall every day.
Opening in the fall of 2013, the dorms will eventually house 700 students. Tours of the new buildings will be given throughout the school year,with early sign-ups during winter term for students who want to live there, according to Director of Housing Tim Robitz.
Robitz added there will be a new 500-seat dining hall with a display-cooking atmosphere and two private dining spaces. The meals will be all-you-can-eat, with details on meal plan options coming out in December.
“I feel like the new student housing will create more of a community,” said Jenean McGee. “Greensprings is alone over there, and I’m new to the campus and I don’t live in the dorms but seeing how they have to walk all the way to Cascade to get their food … it just seems like it will be easier for dorm life to be more of a community base.”
Other students felt less money should have been spent on the new dorms, estimated to cost the school about $40 million between the residence halls and dining facility, and used instead on repairs to some of the older student housing units, or towards making books and supplies more affordable.
“I lived in [Suzanne Homes] and I feel like there were a lot more little things, like faucets and sprinklers, that could have been repaired to the existing student housing instead of spending so much energy on the new developments,” said Laken Struckman, another SOU student.
The North Campus Village is being touted as a new, environmentally-sensitive residence hall to replace the 50-year old Cascade Complex. SOU President Mary Cullinan stated in a press release that the new residence halls were part of the university’s goal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
“I feel that having more green dorms is beneficial because we’re able to save energy and water, and that is money that can come back to SOU,” said Kora Mousseaux, a pre-engineering major.
Others call the university’s claims into question however, questioning how environmentally sustainable the dorms will actually be.
“I think that SOU’s commitment to being a green school is a thin veneer at best,” said SOU student John Tindell.“SOU has missed a huge opportunity to actually do something progressive with green practices regarding energy and water.”
“Unquestionably, SOU could and should do even more,” said Vincent Smith, assistant professor of sociology and environmental studies. “But the sort of commitment I see to sustainability from administration, staff, faculty, and students gives me hope that SOU may one day lead our nation’s universities in the field of sustainability.”
It is no question, however, that the local economy has benefited from the construction on the North Campus Village.
“We were able to use a local contractor and put a lot of people to work during a very tough time,” said Gilliland. “Being that it is primarily a wood frame building, we have used a lot of wood products, which some people will think that’s a good sign and some will think it’s bad, but for our economy that is really good.”
To get a better idea of the new dorms, visit www.construction.sou.edu/northcampus/ where you can digitally explore the layout and view live cameras following the construction. The website also provides students updates and gives further information on the details of the buildings.
But the North Campus Village isn’t the only construction on campus. With the renovation of Churchill Hall complete, SOU students and faculty are now able to enter the building after a year of it being walled in while undergoing major reconstruction.
Although the reconstruction wasn’t set to finish until December 2012, construction crews were able to move ahead of schedule and finish the $6.2 million seismic mechanical upgrade nearly two months in advance.
Although the construction is not LEED certified, it does meet some LEED design standards, according to Drew Gilliland, director of facilities management and planning. LEED is short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to rate the sustainability of buildings.
“It uses less energy than the old building and that now it can handle up to six point earthquakes, whereas before it would have crumbled,” said Gilliland.
Churchill is mainly a campus administration building, although there are four rooms available for academic studies. The architecture for Churchill Hall was done by ORW, or Ogden Roemer Wilkerson, a local Medford company.
Because SOU is saving on gas and electricity, the university was able to get an energy loan called a “self-loan,” which Gilliland explained gets paid off with the direct savings from saving on gas and electricity. The Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Nursing donated $500,000 as well.
The state also provided funding for the seismic upgrade and retrofit.
“[The state] focuses on the worst ones,” said Gilliland. “And we were pretty high [on the list]. This building was really high.”
Most students seemed to be pleased with the Churchill renovations.
“I feel like it’s a good aspect to our campus to bring in new, modern technology that helps our campus stay green and ecofriendly and more sustainable, said SOU student Jenean McGee.