Under Construction: While you were gone

This story kicks off a regular feature in Penn State Today. “Under Construction” will provide a periodic look at construction updates and information on parking and roadway changes.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- From slab of concrete to inviting patio -- the outside of Keller Building was transformed this summer, one of many projects the Office of Physical Plant tackled before fall semester.

“It’s one of those hidden gems,” said Lisa Berkey, director of design and construction in the Office of Physical Plant.

In many cases, exterior work is done at the same time as structural improvements, so the building or landscaping not only becomes more efficient or up-to-date, but also gets a facelift. That means landscaping that’s aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly -- less pavement and more greenery.

Berkey said much of the summer work is driven by the age of the facilities. While the projects make the campus look better, they also improve building efficiency, helping the University shrink the amount of energy it uses.

“Outside of the beautification projects, most of the work this summer was about renovation and renewal,” Berkey said. “You can’t see the piping replacement projects or the sprinkler systems.”

Along with the behind-the-scenes work, the Office of Physical Plant picks a few campus beautification projects each year. Project manager Sam Bertolino noted that many of these initiatives refresh the spaces, plazas and sidewalks of the buildings they serve. They’re improving first impressions while replacing outdated sidewalks, plazas and lighting.

For example, this summer the parking area behind Old Main was reconfigured to make it safer for students and other walkers. At the same time, the campus planning and design team was able to make it look better.

“We ... try to create memorable places, realizing our population is spread out over campus. Someone who spends time in Keller Building might not have a chance to go to Old Main, so we try to create spaces at the facilities that (the people who use that building) can relate to.”

-- Tom Flynn, landscape architect

“We’re always trying to make campus more pedestrian friendly with walkways and building entrances,” said Tom Flynn, landscape architect. “We also try to create memorable places, realizing our population is spread out over campus. Someone who spends time in Keller Building might not have a chance to go to Old Main, so we try to create spaces at the facilities that (the people who use that building) can relate to.”

In the case of Keller Building, that meant dividing the outdoor space into separate seating areas, adding a bicycle parking space and putting in new plantings. At the same time, the project cut the amount of impervious concrete rather than adding to it.

They call it “right-sized paving.”

Bertolino said less pavement means improvements to storm water runoff because water can sink into the ground rather than running across the pavement into pipes. Plus, there are the aesthetic benefits.

“There’s a lot to be said for returning a concrete area to what we have here -- flower beds,” he said.

The Keller Building project, finished by late July, was just one of the projects going on over the summer. Here’s a look at a few of the others:

The HUB-Robeson Center

This project is slated for completion in May 2015, but much of the work will be finished before that. The food court was open for the first day of classes on Aug. 25.

Berkey said the next milestone will be moving the Penn State Bookstore back into the HUB, which is expected to happen in October.

Among the changes the $45 million project will bring is a multipurpose theater, a THON retail store and the improved bookstore and food court.

“It’s pretty transformational,” Berkey said. “When it’s finished, it’s going to be phenomenal.”

The Intramural Building

The second phase of renovations and expansion of the IM Buidling is also slated for completion in May 2014. The lower-level locker rooms were completely redone in time for the start of fall semester. The multiactivity room was reconfigured to make a variety of sporting events possible and the running track.

Berkey said the project will provide athletic facilities to the eastern side of campus much as Rec Hall does on the west.

Funding for the $26 million project comes primarily from student facility fees.

Bryce Jordan Center

The entertainment mecca was taken off line for the summer as a new floor and roof were installed. To get a glimpse of what went on, watch a time-lapse video of crews installing the new floor:

Time-lapse: Crews lay fresh concrete on BJC arena floor

While students are away during the summer, the Office of Physical Plant at Penn State comes to life. With the BJC arena floor coming to the end of its life cycle, officials closed the facility down to refurbish the almost 20-year-old space.  The concrete delivery for the arena floor was logistically challenging because the space to receive the concrete was roughly 11,000 square feet. Twenty-four separate concrete delivery trucks were dispatched to the BJC to keep the concrete pumper constantly at work. Almost 220 cubic yards of concrete were used in the project. This video was gathered from two time-lapse cameras placed in the arena.

C Roy Parker

Other projects

A collaborative student space was added in Osmond Building. At the same time, Berkey said the tradesmen working on it were able to recreate the wood paneling effect.

“Osmond has some wonderful historic paneling in it,” Berkey said. “It’s really a wonderful project.”

At Pattee and Paterno Libraries, work included sprinkler system and roofing improvements and extending telecommunications lines to Burrowes Building.

Other projects are still in the works, including major renovations of Burrowes Building and construction of the Health and Human Development Building.

The last phase of construction work on nearby South Halls is slated to be finished at the end of the calendar year.

Last Updated August 27, 2014