The new Academic Center is projected to be substantially completed by the end of January 2011, although classes will probably not be held inside until the fall 2011 semester. The $11.5 million project is a replacement for the Palmer buildings and has approximately the same square footage. According to the Director of Facilities Planning and Construction Ken Perlowski, the project is “pretty much” on schedule.
“I think it’s going well,” Perlowski said. “We had a few coordinating issues but you’ve got to work your way through that. It’s construction and things happen. I think we’ve got a good team.”
The building’s constructions is funded by PECO money appropriated by the state legislature. The money is used for expenses such as paying architects and buying furniture in addition to the cost of physical construction. One half of one percent of the construction cost is required to fund public art.
“This is our first real classroom building being built at New College dedicated for actual classrooms and offices,” Perlowski said. “If you think about it, New College is pretty much pursing their educational mission in somebody’s old bedroom. The Palmer buildings were dormitories. Most of the classrooms in College Hall were the Ringlings’ bedrooms. The rooms are okay and can be made adequate. But they’re really stuffed full of 50s and 60s technology. We’re trying to get 21st century technology and there’s a lot of differences in an actual purpose designed classroom.”
According to Perlowski, the building will not have science labs, but instead more regular use classrooms. The building will include a math reading room and a dedicated art history room with sophisticated audio visual equipment. “There is a lot of equipment that goes into the new building that I don’t think we quite have a good handle to start with on a lot of computer and information technology and a lot of fairly sophisticated wiring and conductor runs,” Perlowski continued.
“It’s not like I just go and hand you the keys at the end of the day,” Perlowski said. “There’re a lot of pieces that go into this building and it’s really a kind of a new experience starting from the ground up. It’s very different from walking into something and renovating a little bit. Here it’s all brand new.”
According to Perlowski, the building’s upkeep and maintenance should not be difficult, especially for the first couple of years. “One of the owners’ requirements was that this thing should last for 100 years with no maintenance,” Perlowski said. The roof has a 40 year warranty and according to Perlowski the school plans to use the building as a hurricane shelter. “You’ll probably be retired before I’ve got to put on new doors and things,” he quipped.
Most of the rooms will open to the outside and students will need to swipe an encoded card to enter them. The second and third floors will have rolling shutters to protect the walkways from wind. “Now that the windows and doors are up and a lot of the outside is done there’s going to be a lot of time when everybody’s wondering what the hell is going on because they don’t seen any activity,” Perlowski concluded. “There’s activity going on inside the building — a lot of it.”