Named after one of the first faculty members of UAA, back when it was called Anchorage Community College, the 42-year old Beatrice McDonald Hall has surpassed its intended ability to properly cater to the needs of faculty, staff and students. Now it is time for renovations.
“This building was designed to last only 25 to 30 years. It’s time to bring it up to date with current standards and make it last another 25 to 30 years,” Facilities, Planning and Construction Director John Faunce said.
BMH will undergo a complete renovation, which will total an estimated $15 million. FPC has set aside renovation and renewal monies for the past four years in order to accumulate sufficient funds to start the project.
Among the extensive list of improvements, included will be the replacement of old mechanical and electrical systems with more current, energy efficient ones. Worn-out laboratories will be gutted and updated. A new elevator will be installed to meet current Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The project will include demolition, which will require the hazmat abatement of asbestos, standard for most demolition done to structures built in the 1970s or earlier.
People unfamiliar with the properties of asbestos automatically think of health risks associated with exposure, such as lung disease, and speculate that this is one of the main reasons for the whole project. Faunce swiftly clarified that this is not an issue at all, and that the only way asbestos could pose as a threat is if it were exposed in its friable form, where it could be inhaled. This is physically impossible when it is deeply embedded in materials such as tiles and floors. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos is in virtually every structure built up until the mid-1970s. Exposure takes place during disruption and demolition, hence the need for hazmat abatement.
There are several departments that occupy BMH: College Preparatory and Developmental Studies, Liberal Studies, Biological sciences, Anthropology, Geography and Environmental Studies and Aquatic Ecology from the Alaska Natural Heritage Program.When the actual renovation starts come spring 2013, the entire BMH building must be vacant. In recent weeks, occupying departments have already started the ongoing process of relocation.
Krystal Haase, one of the building managers for BMH shared the intricate details.
“There is going to be a huge crunch on campus, we don’t have enough available classrooms to teach in,” Haase said. “We have recommended having classes on Fridays and Saturdays or at 7 a.m. to make sure all of these courses could still be taught.”
So far, all of the department faculty offices have relocated to other campus buildings; some temporarily for the next 2 years, and others permanently. College Preparatory and Developmental Studies will permanently relocate to the Professional Studies Building. Liberal Studies and their two laboratories will permanently relocate to the Science Building. Biological Sciences will permanently relocate to the Science Building as well while the final location of their laboratories are still in the works. Their transition is straightforward, they will remain where they relocate.
However, department courses (with the exception of Anthropology research) taught at BMH will resume as normal in classrooms and laboratories until the end of the upcoming fall semester. By spring 2013 all of these courses will have to be taught elsewhere on campus.
“It will take a lot of time and energy, but we are able to really organize and finally get rid of unused items taking up space in our labs and classrooms,” Biology term assistant professor Mandy Keogh said.
Anthropology, Geography and Environmental Studies and Aquatic Ecology will be the only departments that will return back to a fully renovated BMH, projected for fall 2014. The process is more complex for them because they will to be temporarily displaced only to go through the whole moving process again in two years.
Currently the Anthropology Department office has temporarily relocated to the PSB, but all of their research and graduate student studies have temporarily relocated downtown to 707 A Street.
Each time they move their collections, they have to meticulously catalog and account for every item. The department has to scramble to find teaching space and ways to accommodate everyone.
“Faculty and students have been greatly impacted undertaking such a humongous task. It could be distressing,” Associate Dean of Graduate School David Yesner said. Yesner is also an Anthropology professor and is unsure of what to anticipate in the fall, as this is the first time the department has faced this sort of displacement.
The whole process of moving around will be arduous and time consuming for all faculty, staff and students involved, but the vision of a newly renovated BMH building with modern laboratories and remodeled classrooms alleviates any travails.
“It’s all part of growing pains,” Yesner said,”but it will all be worth it in the end.”