Folwell Hall to undergo renovations

The building will be updated to meet building codes and improve efficiency.

by Ashley Bray

University of Minnesota students taking language courses wonâÄôt go to their usual spot in Folwell Hall this summer or next year as the historic building undergoes major renovations. All told, about 6,000 students and hundreds of faculty members will relocate next year during the construction. Language courses will take place in Eddy Hall, Williamson Hall, Klaeber Court and other locations. The 104-year-old building, which usually houses four College of Liberal Arts language departments and almost all of the language courses offered at the University, will be updated to meet building codes and improve its efficiency, safety and comfort. An array of problems spurred the buildingâÄôs renovation, including safety issues. Two new elevators will replace a single existing elevator that is old and too small, said Paul Oelze, a project manager with the UniversityâÄôs Capital Planning and Project Management. The new elevators will be faster and large enough to accommodate stretchers. Two stairwells will also be installed, as well as a third elevator that will provide access to the Gopher Way tunnel system, which previously couldnâÄôt be accessed by wheelchair. The buildingâÄôs sprinkler and fire alarm systems will be replaced and hazardous materials such as asbestos in floor tiles and walls will be removed. The renovation reflects the UniversityâÄôs effort to become more environmentally friendly, Oelze said. One innovative feature will be a demountable wall system in departmental offices. âÄúWhen we renovate any building with typical walls made of sheet rock, we demolish them and they end up in a landfill,âÄù Oelze said, âÄúbut in Folwell, all departmental offices will utilize wide-open floor plans with panelized, demountable wall systems, which is a very green approach and a University initiative.âÄù Some of the students who took language courses in Folwell said they noticed problems with the building long before the renovation. âÄúFolwell Hall is definitely always really hot, and all the bathrooms smelled,âÄù said Sara Sneer, a double major in Spanish and Portuguese Studies. To address this problem, more than 50 large window air conditioners, which are extremely inefficient and noisy, will be replaced with an updated ventilation system, Oelze said. The buildingâÄôs more than 400 windows will be replaced with new energy-efficient windows. Planners will equip the classrooms with digital technology and improve the buildingâÄôs layout so it is more convenient for students and faculty. Students will also no longer need to walk up the stairs for classes on the fourth floor. Classrooms will be consolidated to the ground-level and first floor of the building and the language departments will be located on the second and third floors, Oelze said. The fourth floor will hold teaching assistant offices, he said. Careful measures will be taken to preserve the historic corridor on the buildingâÄôs first floor, including the marble floors, original doors and ornate woodwork. The renovation is scheduled to be completed in August 2011 in time for classes that begin in September. It will take at least one month to install the new furniture and move the faculty and staff back into the building, Oelze said. Advising and counseling offices have shifted throughout the campus, freeing up space for classes and departments that were previously located in Folwell, said Kelly OâÄôBrien, a CLA external relations representative. This shifting allows for classes previously held in Folwell to move without overcrowding their temporary homes. âÄúGeneral shifting just happened, freeing up some swing space on campus,âÄù OâÄôBrien said, âÄúand we just happened to be lucky that there was a large amount of it available right now.âÄù