Renovation Brings Sill Hall Into the 21st Century at Eastern Michigan University
Meeting a New Need: Eastern Michigan University Updates Sill Hall, the Home of the New College of Engineering and Technology
With the recent addition of new engineering programs, Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti embarked on a $40 million reconstruction and addition to Sill Hall, which come fall will house the College of Engineering and Technology.
“The building was getting outdated and needed to be brought into the 21st century,” says Chris Longerbeam, Project Manager for Eastern Michigan and an alumnus of the school. “We are trying to be as competitive as possible in these fields.”
In 2017, the university announced the addition of mechanical engineering and computer and electrical engineering programs, and in 2019 added a planned civil engineering program. The existing College of Technology was thus renamed the College of Engineering and Technology, part of Eastern’s mission to align its academic programs with high-demand and satisfying careers. The university was founded in 1849 and serves more than 17,000 students, pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Greater Flexibility and Collaboration
In addition to completely new mechanical, electrical and networking systems, Eastern Michigan aimed to create new and inviting student study and collaboration spaces, more flexible laboratories, and classrooms and faculty offices in the existing 74,000-square-foot building. A few of the programs to occupy the new building include varieties of engineering, vehicle cybersecurity, and autonomous vehicles.
Integrated Design Solutions (IDS) in Troy, Michigan, designed the renovation and addition in 2018. IDS was formed in 1999 and has grown during the ensuing years. Its services include architecture, engineering, interiors, and technology. The project was designed using building information modeling.
“The goal was to create a new, reimagined building, where we have a series of 30-foot by 40-foot teaching labs that would be flexible in how they will be utilized in the future,” says Mark Reaves, Senior Designer and Assistant Director of Architecture for IDS. “As this school grows, the building can be adaptable to the changing needs of engineering.”
Crews gutted the building down to the concrete frame and then built it back. Additionally, the existing stone aggregate panel exterior was removed and replaced with glass and metal panels.
“It’s essentially a brand new building,” Longerbeam says.
Although not pursing LEED certification, the new electrical and mechanical systems are energy efficient, with each of the three new mechanical units having energy recovery systems, Longerbeam says. Crews removed all of the electrical and mechanical infrastructure and replaced them with new elements. All new light fixtures are LED. The roof and walls have received additional insulation. The new windows are energy saving. Vinyl tile and carpet cover the floors. In addition, a new electrical substation was built in the two-story building.
“Aesthetically, we focused on complimenting the existing high-bay space, which is a red brick and gray concrete structure,” Reaves says. “The goal was a new modern aesthetic.”
The original building, built in 1965, had not been updated since its original construction. The building did not have extensive historical significance, so the university could proceed with the extensive renovation without complications.
The project also includes a 15,000-square-foot addition, with a new main entry and atrium, four flexible laboratories and a “maker space,” where students can collaborate on projects. The new structure includes a glass window wall, which will bathe the interior in natural light. The grade varies by about 12 feet. The new addition will have entrances on the upper and lower levels.
The university self-funded the entire $40 million project.
Clark Construction Co. in Lansing, Michigan, received the construction contract and began work in April 2019.
The existing structure contained two sections: a two-story classroom building and a high-bay laboratory section. Those two areas created an easy way to phase the project.
Phase one featured the high-bay lab space, a virtual reality lab with an 8-foot by 8-foot screen, a mechanical engineering lab space for car design, and an area for cybersecurity and smart car testing.
Before work could begin, the school had to move everyone out of the building. The university lacked enough space to move all activities, specifically to displace the laboratories in the high-bay section. Classes in those areas were closed for one semester and the summer.
“We used an accelerated schedule and opened those in August of 2019,” Longerbeam says. Classes continued in the two-story section, while work proceeded in the high-bay areas.
One challenge was feeding electrical power to the renovated spaces without creating issues for adjacent buildings. A new primary substation was planned for the renovated two-story building, but since the high-bay section opened earlier, temporary power feeds had to be installed.
“There’s been a lot of shut-down coordination,” Longerbeam says.
Once the high-bay spaces were completed, Clark’s crews began work on the two-story structure and addition. Students, faculty and staff used available swing spaces throughout the campus as offices or classrooms.
“To bring the existing building up to current building codes required structural reinforcing,” Longerbeam says. “A lot of it was shear, so we installed more masonry walls than we normally would in a renovated building. Then we used structural clips to tie the existing cast-in-place structure to those masonry walls.”
Work on phase two included reconfiguring the lab spaces, building out a large machine shop, creating space for student collaboration on projects, classrooms and office spaces, and facilities for the construction trades.
Clark is using a drone to document progress on the project, which is on schedule to wrap up this September, in time for the fall semester.
“It’s been fun getting to renovate and bring into the modern era a facility I was really a part of during my undergrad studies,” Longerbeam.
Additional Projects at Eastern Michigan
In addition to the Sill Hall renovation and addition, Eastern Michigan has two other major projects, one that just wrapped up, while the other remains underway.
The school also built a $14 million, 28,500-square-foot campus/community health facility in partnership with Saint Joseph Mercy Health System and Integrated Healthcare Associates. The two-building center offers urgent and primary care services in the IHA Health Center @ EMU and counseling and psychological services and the EMU Community Behavioral Health Clinic in the adjacent Campus Wellness Center. The health center opened in November, and the Wellness Center opened in March.
Another major project is the $16 million, 180,000-square-foot Olds-Robb Recreation and Intramural Sports Building renovation. The renovated facility includes a rock climbing wall, renovated locker rooms, and workout and gathering areas along with greatly improved aesthetics and sightlines, making for a much more satisfying and uplifting workout experience.
“The building is seen as a key element in offering an excellent campus wellness experience for students and staff,” Longerbeam says.