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Alumni Hall, the living room experience Marian University desired

Alumni Hall

Photo: ©Abstract Photography, Inc.

As students headed back to Marian University for the 2014-2015 school year, F.A. Wilhelm Construction wrapped up construction management of the university’s new Alumni Hall. First, the new campus bookstore opened when school started, and then three weeks later the Starbucks opened within the hall.

“It was a very exciting day,” Curtis Sattison, Wilhelm project manager said. “It was great to see students walking the corridors between the bookstore and Starbucks. With the space fully occupied, students are using the space as a living room for personal studies.”

That is exactly what Marian University envisioned for the new building, to have Alumni Hall be the living room of the university. In addition to Starbucks, the Alumni Hall Food Court features a Papa John’s and Grill Works.

“The space provides a spot where students can hang out and enjoy food and coffee,” Audra Blasdel, Marian University’s project representative and the University’s Director of Projects and Procurement said. “They can interact with their peers as well as faculty and staff, outside of the classroom, providing a sense of community to their experience at Marian University.”

Sattison explained the university had expectations of what the space needed to be for banquets and alumni events but also recognized that those events are not the everyday need on campus. He said the university knew that “students being in there Monday through Friday was the important thing.”

In order to accommodate the varying needs for this 18,500 sq. ft. space, flexibility stayed at the forefront of RATIO Architects’ design. Expenses for the project centered on the functionality and proper use of the spaces.

“The university was very selective about where to spend money to allow the flexibility of the space while maintaining a very attractive building,” Sattison said. “They focused on functionality.”

That functionality derived from investing in quality Skyfold® partitions that divide the open space into two spaces, allowing banquet functions and student activities to take place simultaneously. Finishes were kept in mind to maintain budget, according to Sattison.


Photo: Josh Humble

The biggest challenge for this project, like most projects last year was getting through the winter.

“We were still outdoors during the harsh winter and we lost work days,” Sattison said. “We used the spring and summer to get back on track.”

Additionally, some of the functional materials had longer lead times and required detailed coordination. For example, the Skyfolds® and the Hufcor® bi-fold doors in the banquet area, the 6-foot access floor, which allows flexibility of outlets and furniture, the 23-foot ceiling with fabric acoustical panels all demanded special installation and coordination.

“Once we had the floor down, we couldn’t bring in lift equipment,” Sattison explained. “We nearly had to go to day-by-day and hour-by-hour to schedule contractors in the space without another waiting and on top of one another. We had very elaborate ceiling and floor space on this project, and both couldn’t be happening at the same time.”

Marian University made it a point to add energy efficiency anywhere possible. Working with RATIO and Wilhelm, the university was able to do that without exaggerating the cost of the project. Certain challenges arose during construction that required adjusting design elements. Sattison said this project stayed on track through the collaborative team of Marian University, RATIO and Wilhelm.

“We really did all work together to make sure that the functionality, design and construction schedules we taken care of. This really was a fun project team to work with throughout the process.”

Marian University kicked off its Homecoming Weekend with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Alumni Hall last fall.

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