After breaking ground six months ago, construction of the Whitcomb Art Building is set to be finished on time next fall and ready for classes that winter.
“We’re right on schedule, maybe a little bit ahead,” stated Director of Facilities Services Scott Maust. “There have been no surprises.”
Along with the actual building, plans for the Art department’s transition, outside courtyard, prairiescape and other environmental efforts are being finalized. Maust attributes the speed of the construction to this year’s tame winter and noted that the development will become even more apparent as the days go on. Unlike the reconstruction of Alumni Hall, people can actually see the progress.
“I think [students] are going to see in the [next] month or so a lot of transformation of the building. Each day, it seems like you can see changes,” Maust said.
In regards to the transition, the Art department has begun to sort out and refurbish the materials that will make their move from the Ford Center of Fine Arts to the new art building. According to Chair of Art Mark Holmes, the bulk of this work will take place during the summer and fall to ensure an easier move.
“There’s going to be a lot of moving parts,” Holmes said. “The challenge is going to be getting the moving parts coordinated.”
The department will begin moving once the building is completed, which means they’ll have part of Fall Term and winter break to make sure everything is ready for classes to start in January 2017.
“One of the advantages of having the building done, but not actually making the move until December, is that it gives us the chance to see it, to go through it, to be in the spaces and make decisions about where exactly things will go,” said Holmes. “We didn’t want to have to rush.”
As construction progresses, sustainability has become a major focus. These efforts are being made in part so that the Whitcomb Art Building can earn LEED certification — a globally recognized green building certification that rates a building’s design, construction, operation and maintenance based on environmental responsibility.
In regards to art facilities, four darkroom safelights recently needed to be replaced with more sustainable bulbs in order to be LEED certified and special attention has been given to the kilns to ensure they meet specific requirements.
“It’s a lot of little things like that,” Holmes stated. “They’re not really construction details, but they’re more complicated than simply moving things in.”
LEED certification, according to Maust, adds about 5 percent to the overall cost of the construction, but the environmental sustainability of the building has already piqued the interest of students and faculty.
Senior and Environmental Studies major Maggie St. Clair became interested in the Whitcomb Art Building after learning about the plans for rain gardens outside the building, which allow rainwater to be absorbed directly into the ground. According to St. Clair, the rain gardens will benefit the campus environment and could be useful for students in classes like Environmental Science 101 or Hydrology.
“I’m just imagining the rain gardens as a really good example of how easy it is to be environmentally friendly,” said St. Clair.
The rain gardens will surround a courtyard outside the art building along with four honeylocust trees to shade the area. The honeylocust trees were included in the original landscape design, but cut due to budget costs later on in the development phase. Thanks to money from the Green Fund — controlled by Student Senate and funded by the activity fee — the trees were added back into the plans.
Director of Sustainability Deborah Steinberg, with help from the junior and Sustainability Committee Chair Sofia Tagkaloglou, proposed the funding for the four trees, which cost $16,000 ($4000 per tree). The trees will be harvested and ready for the building’s completion this fall.
“I thought it was a pretty attainable thing that would have a long-lasting impact,” said Steinberg.
Tagkaloglou hopes the trees will also create an “aesthetic, comfortable place on campus,” and added that Student Senate is thinking about supplying the area with hammocks for student use.
The biggest challenge to the trees involved the additional cost, but Tagkaloglou was able to show Senate that they would provide overall annual benefits of at least $42, according to National Tree Benefit Calculator.
Beyond sustainability efforts, Holmes stated that the Whitcomb Art Building, combined with the city’s development of the Railroad Hall of Fame, will also provide a strong architectural contribution for the Galesburg and Knox communities.
“There’s a potential for a lot of a sort of attention — critical architectural attention — to come to Galesburg and Knox,” Holmes said.