Pennsylvania State University Provides Campus Building Update

Summer is a busy time to build on the Penn State campus, and this year is no exception. However, some of the implications of the ongoing global supply chain crisis have made this task even more challenging for the University’s Office of Physical Plants.

University officials say OPP’s construction crews are adjusting to unexpected obstacles as they move forward with projects across campus, including housing renovations and the expansion of the Lasch football building. So far, some campaigns have encountered hurdles caused by global supply chain issues.

“With global supply chains continuing to be disrupted, procurement of materials has been a challenge in most of the construction industry, including for us here in Pennsylvania,” said Bill Setzabee. Pennsylvania’s vice president for facilities management and planning and chief facilities officer, in a written statement. “I am proud of the way our team at Penn State OPP and our contractors have continued to find innovative solutions to address these issues and find ways to move projects forward.”

With these challenges in mind, here’s what you need to know about five of Pennsylvania’s top construction projects.

Palmer Museum of Art

Construction work on the new Palmer Museum of Art in Pennsylvania is progressing steadily after crews began work last July. The university says site work, foundations and steel structures have all been completed for the new facility, which is located next to the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens at the Penn State Arboretum. The project is not currently experiencing any delays or setbacks.

The $85 million, 71,000-square-foot facility will help the Palmer Museum of Art significantly expand its exhibition spaces and galleries. Once opened, the new museum can display between 7 and 8% of the works in its 10,000-piece collection, effectively doubling the museum’s existing capacity.

The new complex will also include indoor spaces and an outdoor terrace dedicated to hosting events, as well as educational classrooms and galleries to enhance educational efforts. Design plans include interlocking pavilions constructed with local stone in central Pennsylvania, as well as outdoor courtyards to merge with the adjacent arboretum. In addition, a specially designed HVAC system will enhance efforts to preserve the museum’s art.

The new Palmer Museum of Art will replace the existing 50,000-square-foot museum located less than a mile on Curtin Road, although the university will continue to use this space as an unspecified educational facility. By moving the museum toward the arboretum, Penn State hopes to improve its visibility and provide easier access to schools and visiting tourists. Officials previously estimated that the new museum could nearly triple annual attendance from 35,000 to 95,000.

Penn State expects to finish building the museum next summer. The university will then begin a lengthy technical installation process that may take several months. The new Palmer Museum of Art is scheduled to open to the public by the spring of 2024.

The current Palmer Museum of Art, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in 2022, will remain open until the new museum is completed.

West 1 engineering building

After years of planning, Penn State is finally moving forward with a comprehensive 10-year project to build a new center for its engineering programs on the west side of the campus. This project includes West 1 – the unnamed facility that will serve as the future home of the Pennsylvania Aeronautical, Architectural, Civil and Environmental departments. The $228 million, 290,000-square-foot facility will include research and teaching laboratories, classrooms, computer labs, office and administrative spaces, a library, dining options, and common areas.

Crews are now assembling and installing the building’s cast steel and concrete structure along White Course Drive. The university expects construction to be finished by January 2024, allowing occupancy to begin by the start of the fall semester 2024. OPP spokesperson Tyler Amy said supply chain issues have slightly delayed construction of West 1.

You can view this webcam online to check the progress of West 1.

West 2 Engineering Building

Although West 1 is still in its infancy, West 2 is moving forward at a faster pace right across the street.

The 105,000-square-foot, $88 million facility will include classrooms, design studios, research centers and faculty offices. West 2 will also offer resources to help fourth-year students complete the Graduation Design projects required for graduation. In addition, the building’s research space will host an elevated structural research laboratory, the first of its kind at the university, a Penn State spokesperson said.

Construction on the west side of the campus on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. Abby Dre [email protected]

OPP officials say construction on West 2 is about 70% complete with work expected to be completed before the end of the year. The Pennsylvania College of Engineering will begin transfers in the coming spring and summer with the intent of opening West 2 for classes by Fall 2023.

Although officials noted that supply chain issues have led to longer wait times for materials to arrive, West 2 is moving forward without much delay.

Just like West 1, you can view your webcam online to check in to the West 2 building.

Dorm renovations of the eastern halls

Entering one of the final stages of its East Halls renovation project, Penn State is renovating Bigler, Curtin, and Packer Halls and will soon stop at Hastings, Snyder, and Stone Halls for upgrades as well. Last week, OPP estimated that the current phase of the project, which will renew the six residence halls, is about 20% complete. The soon-to-be-renovated buildings are still on track to reopen their doors to students in time for the fall 2023 semester.

Renovations to the East Halls did not experience significant delays due to supply chain issues. However, construction of the project has been delayed by nearly two years due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In all, Pennsylvania’s renovation of East Halls, the largest residential area on campus, will treat 16 apartment buildings. The ten dorms within the complex have already reopened after renovations dating back to 2016. The upgrades to the remaining six residence halls will cost an estimated $164 million, supported by the university’s five-year capital plan.

By renovating the residence halls, Penn State can install more efficient building systems that enable climate-controlled rooms. Other dwelling upgrades typically include new furniture, remodeled public spaces, and improvements to the building’s appearance, accessibility features, and landscaping.

Once construction at East Halls is complete, Penn State will take a one-year vacation during the 2023-24 school year before setting its sights on Pollock Halls on the central campus. The next phase of renovations will upgrade seven residence halls within the complex, extending through the 2027-28 academic year.

The renovation of the Bullock residences is supported in part by increases in the university’s room and board rates. Next year, the average student in Pennsylvania in a standard room with a mid-level meal plan will pay about 3.5% more to live on campus — a modest increase compared to last year’s rate hike of 3.45%.

Campus lighting

Although Penn State had hoped to move forward with a project that would add more lighting fixtures across campus paths, the university is temporarily suspending the project due to “unexpected material delays” for 115 new lampposts. Installations are now expected to be completed by August 2023 once construction resumes next spring or summer.

Delays in a campus-wide lighting project will not affect work on the Nittany Apartments complex in Pennsylvania, which began this summer and will upgrade nearby hallways and outdoor lighting fixtures. The university expects to complete the first of five phases by August 2022.

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Matt is a 2022 Penn State graduate. Prior to arriving at the Daily Times Center, he worked as a managing editor at Onward State and a news intern at WPSU Radio.

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