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Clemson University broke ground this past Friday on a $31 million project to expand and renovate Rudolph E. Lee Hall in Clemson, which is home of the university’s design, build and visual arts disciplines.
The bulk of the project money will go to new construction, with the balance to renovate older parts of Lee Hall, including the original section constructed in 1958, according to the university.
The 55,000-square-foot new building will stand at the south end of the existing structure, where its footprint is intended to be light, even as it speaks loudly of design and innovation.
“We want a building that has some highly sustainable concepts in the design and a building that can teach students how a building comes together, how it exists in an environment and how it can even give back to an environment,” said Brad Smith of McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture, lead architects for the project.
The university president says that’s important for a building that houses Clemson’s graduate and undergraduate programs in architecture; art; city and regional planning; construction science and management; landscape architecture; real estate development; and a doctoral program in planning, design and the built environment.
“We are now poised to realize fully the vision of Lee Hall as ‘the building that teaches,’" Clemson President James F. Barker said. "In it, students will learn from their teachers, from each other and from the building itself, because the new Lee Hall will be a model of sustainable design for the 21st century. We are fortunate that the renovation and restoration portion of this project qualified for federal stimulus support. This funding allowed us to get under way despite a weak economy and state funding cuts.”
The plan to expand, renovate and restore Lee Hall is funded by federal money and private support.
McMillan Pazdan Smith is working in association with Thomas Phifer and Partners of New York with Tom Phifer serving as the design architect. Phifer earned his bachelor’s degree from Clemson in 1975 and his master’s in 1977.
“We live in an extraordinary time now when we can begin to think about making a building that fosters a progressive approach to learning,” Phifer said. “It is my hope that this building will inspire students to work collaboratively in an open and welcoming environment, not only one to another but to the broader Clemson campus. Likewise, the sustainability strategies will not only connect the building to its place but it will put students in touch with nature; the movement of the sun, the feeling of natural ventilation and the sound of the rain. It has been an honor to work on the college that meant so much to my development as an architect.”
The design calls for a simple interior that takes advantage of natural light. It employs a geothermal system integrated with radiant heating and cooling in the floors. Not in the budget for now but part of the long-term plan is a green roof on the new addition, complete with live foliage and photovoltaic panels on the existing buildings. If all of these measures can be put in place, the building actually may create energy for the power grid, a zero-net energy building.
“It will be a ‘zero-net-ready’ building. It will use very little energy and possibly will give energy back to the grid,” said Smith, a 1982 graduate of Clemson’s architecture program and 1983 graduate of the construction science and management program. “It’s an honor to work for the university I graduated from and work on a building that is part of the architecture program and to have clients that are people I knew as professors. I’ve been involved in a lot of things at Clemson, but this really feels like giving back.”
Smith said he believes the new Lee Hall building will be one other universities look to when undertaking future building plans.
“I think it will guide other universities. This is a pioneering building,” Smith said.
The Lee Hall project — the only major building project not halted by the recent economic downturn — is slated for completion by fall 2011. Holder Construction Co. of Atlanta is the construction manager. The firm specializes in work on college and university campuses.
Lee Hall is named for Rudolph E. Lee, the first head of architecture at Clemson. The original building was designed by Harlan McClure, Clemson’s first dean of architecture and a nationally recognized figure in architectural education. Those who studied under and after McClure credit his Lee Hall design for bringing contemporary architecture to South Carolina and the region, and for cultivating generations of influential architects.
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