UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall to undergo green renovations

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Alvin Wu/Staff

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UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall is scheduled to shut down next year as it receives an eco-friendly upgrade.

Under the Wheeler Hall Renewal Project, the building will undergo repairs on its infrastructure starting May 2016 — nearly 100 years after its establishment in 1917. The hall will remain closed through January 2017 while the improvements are made.

Renovations will include accessibility improvements, new mechanical and electrical systems, the modernization and replacement of elevators, the replacement of roofing and waterproofing systems and window restoration, according to the project’s website. In making these improvements, the project aims to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification.

LEED credentials are based on a system wherein satisfying prerequisites qualifies a construction project for a certain number of points. These points then correlate with varying levels of certification. The Wheeler Hall project strives to earn enough points for a Silver certification at minimum, which ranks third highest out of the four levels of LEED certification.

“(LEED) was established as campus policy in order to make sure that all of our projects are as energy efficient as they can be,” said Sally McGarrahan, director of the campus’s Capital Renewal Program, which is funding the project and receives $30 million in funding each year to update campus facilities.

The proposed budget for Wheeler Hall’s renewal is about $27 million and will soon be finalized now that a contractor is on board, according to McGarrahan. The Capital Renewal Program conceived the renewal, but UC Berkeley’s Construction and Design division — which carries out design, construction, retrofitting and restoration enterprises on campus — will manage the project, she said.

Designed by the campus’s first architect, John Galen Howard, Wheeler Hall houses one of the largest lecture halls on campus and about 10 percent of the campus’s general assignment classrooms.

Renovations had been hindered by the profusion of activity the building sees, according to McGarrahan, who said Wheeler Hall experienced a retrofitting in the 1980s.

A primary concern regarding faculty relocation during the renovation is that there might not be enough space for each faculty member to have his or her own office, according to Donna Jones, an associate professor of English, who has an office in Wheeler Hall. Lack of access to books and other materials could also be a burden to faculty who are moved from the building, she said.

Despite the inconveniences that accompany classroom and office relocation, however, assistant professor of English Dora Zhang said she is in support of a project that makes Wheeler Hall more environmentally friendly.

Plans for relocating the classes and offices typically housed in Wheeler Hall have not yet been solidified, according to Christine Shaff, spokesperson for the campus’s real estate division.

Contact Kayla Kettmann and Andrea Platten at [email protected].