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Campus Gets a (Green) Summer Makeover

University to put $55 million into renovations


Take a good look around campus before Commencement, because much will have changed by fall semester. In a good way.

Starting the week after graduation and continuing to mid-August, Boston University will conduct $55 million worth of (mostly green-friendly) renovations — from boosting wireless access and swapping oil for gas in some heating systems to revamping Walter Brown Arena and remodeling older dorms.

Making those renovations green is not only good for the environment, says Dennis Carlberg, the University’s sustainability director, it can also save money.

“We can’t rely on others to do the green thing, to do the right thing,” Carlberg says. “It’s important for all of us to be involved and do our part. It’s critical that BU set that example.”

Yearly summer renovations are built into the University’s capital improvements budget, explains Thomas Daley, associate vice president for facilities management and planning. Every potential project is ranked in order of importance and ticked off the list as work is completed. What’s on the list for this summer? Here are some of scheduled projects:

Residential and dining renovations
The University will install 1,200 wireless access points in all dining areas and residences on the Charles River Campus over the next three years. This summer seven dorms are slated for wireless access: The Towers, 1019 Commonwealth Avenue, 10 Buick Street, Warren Towers, and Claflin, Sleeper, and Rich Halls.

Claflin and the West Tower at 140 Bay State Road will undergo complete makeovers, with walls and ceilings patched, light fixtures replaced, and built-in furniture torn out to make room for movable furnishings. To keep things green, the University will use low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, carpet made from recycled materials, and energy-efficient lighting.

At 56 Bay State Road, kitchens and bathrooms will be remodeled and a gas-powered hot water system will replace electric baseboard heat in 10 graduate student apartments.

The building at 203 Bay State Road, which houses specialty community residences, will get a complete rehab and will be closed for the 2010–2011 academic year.

Diners at Union Court next fall will notice a new floor and wall coverings, tables and chairs, and a projection system for the Backcourt. Composting will be added to the court’s lineup of trash and recycling barrels. Food scraps, biodegradable cutlery, and straws can all be dumped into the new bin, which will be manned for the first weeks of the fall semester by students, who will be on hand to answer questions. The University’s most recent dining survey shows that 85 percent of students are “very willing” to join a composting program.

Classrooms and labs
Wireless access will be installed in 230 classrooms over the next two years. Audiovisual systems will be added to 30 classrooms on the Charles River Campus.

Greater wireless access campus-wide makes Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore a happy man. Beyond checking his e-mail and reading documents, the social media–savvy administrator is thrilled that he will be able to tweet and update his blog from almost anywhere.

“It’s one of those infrastructure things that has a real impact on how a person expresses themselves, how that person creates,” Elmore says.

Selected classrooms and laboratories in the College of General Studies, the School of Theology, and the School of Medicine will be renovated or expanded and get new lighting, heating, and cooling systems.

The CGS renovation will be extensive: two classrooms will be merged and equipped with cutting-edge media, including lecture capture, videoconferencing, and audience response, a technology that allows students to signal with handheld clickers whether they understand a lecture.

The Lab Animal Care Facility in the Metcalf Science Building will be reshuffled to provide space for twice the number of students. The installation of a new cage-washing system will save the University 8,000 gallons of water a month.

Nice ice
Walter Brown Arena will be unrecognizable to regulars. New ice-making equipment, ice floor, dasher boards, and glass will put the facility on a par with Agganis Arena. Improved ventilation, lighting, and dehumidification systems will also be installed. The upgrades could save BU $221,000 yearly on its electricity bill.

Walter Brown is the primary skating arena for the women’s hockey team, one of only three teams nationally to claim its own space. Intramural clubs, such as men’s hockey, broomball, figure skating, and synchronized skating, also use the ice.

Energy-efficient upgrades
Windows will be replaced in the College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Theology over the next five years. The new windows should reduce the University’s yearly carbon emissions by 770 tons.

The East Campus Boiler Plant, which heats and cools Commonwealth Avenue buildings from Warren Towers to the George Sherman Union, will be converted from oil to natural gas. The switchover should reduce the University’s carbon footprint by just under 3 percent.

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday.


8 Comments on Campus Gets a (Green) Summer Makeover

  • Anonymous on 04.26.2010 at 5:27 am

    I would have liked these renovations to have occurred last year as opposed to all the new TVs. Especially in West Campus. Fixing up ugly, non-working parts of the school should be a priority (considering how much we pay), not adding frivolous things that could wait.

  • Anonymous on 04.26.2010 at 5:39 am


    Really glad WBA is finally getting renovated, that place is used by so many different organizations and has been in desperate need of a facelift for a while. Not to mention the Women’s Ice Hockey team deserves to be playing in a nicer facility.

  • Anonymous on 04.26.2010 at 7:08 am

    FYI–The College of Fine Arts is falling apart, and hasn’t gotten a renovation since the 1960s. The condition of the building is dangerous–after the recent rain, the ceiling in front of the concert hall began to turn literally black, and there were EIGHT industrial size garbage cans in that small hallway to collect the rain where there were holes in the ceiling.

    CFA has had dwindling enrollment for the past 10 years…and next year’s class is the smallest yet. PLEASE BU…if you care about the arts, do something about the condition of CFA!

  • Anonymous on 04.26.2010 at 9:57 am

    Built in furniture

    I know that the furniture is getting old in Towers but I think that it is a waste to tear it all out just to put in new furniture that provides students with less storage. The best thing about Towers dorms is the ceiling-to-floor storage and the really big desk.

  • Anonymous on 04.26.2010 at 10:01 am

    $55 million and no solar panels?

  • Anonymous on 04.26.2010 at 11:03 am


    I love hearing about projects going on at BU. Most of the areas being renovated now have been in dire need for years, and its wonderful that we are taking the sustainable approach!

  • Anonymous on 04.26.2010 at 1:49 pm

    Way to Go BU… FINALLY!!! :)

  • RA to be on 04.29.2010 at 9:02 am

    West Tower

    As a future RA in the West Tower for next year, I’m so relieved we’re getting some renovatio

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