Education Hall transforms before the eyes of campus

Workers strip stones off the face of Education Hall earlier this year as part of a renovation project. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Education Hall looks oddly bare these days, like a genteel old woman caught in the garden in her corset and bloomers. What for years has been a building encased in chain-link fence to keep falling stone from hitting passersby has not only lost the fencing, but the stone it was encasing. Now, from the second floor up, the building appears to be little more than support beams and plastic sheeting covered by the shell of a roof.

However, there’s more to the building than currently meets the eye. Although the crumbling sandstone is now being carted away and recycled, the building’s cement floors and interior walls remain, and workers are busy transforming the space into a state-of –the-art collection of classrooms, conference spaces and offices which will give the century-old building a brand new feel.

College of Education Dean Sam Stern and his faculty are currently housed in Waldo Hall while construction is taking place. He knows that the odd looking process is raising some questions on campus.

“We’re taking apart a building and it seems really strange,” Stern said with a laugh.

The elegant west entrance to Education Hall is remaining intact. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

The renovation of Education Hall, which started out as a seismic upgrade but which has expanded into a transformation of the entire building, will become a centerpiece for the entrance to campus, blending historic charm with high tech touches. The exterior seismic upgrades are being funded by the state, and the interior renovations are being funded by a combination of private donations and university funds.

The originally 40,000 square-foot building cost $40,000 to construct. The current seismic renovation project totals $12.5 million and the interior renovation is expected to cost between $5 and $7 million. But to renovate the historic building costs about half what it would to raze the building and put up a brand new hall in its place, said Matt Norman, project manager with Fortis Construction Inc. of Portland. And reusing the existing building makes sense from an environmental perspective as well, he said.

Originally built in 1902, the building first housed the College of Agriculture, and later the College of Science, and among its claims to fame, it was where Nobel Prize-winning chemist and peace activist Linus Pauling met his future wife while he was teaching a class.

Two fires gutted the interior of the building in the 1930s, leaving the exterior sandstone shell standing. The second time the interior was rebuilt, construction crews made concrete walls to prevent future fire destruction. But in doing that, they did not adequately attach them to the exterior walls, leaving the exterior stones dangerously vulnerable to tumbling down during an earthquake.

It didn’t help that the sandstone used on the building had a high clay content, making it particularly porous. Add to that the fact that the original builders installed the blocks in the wrong direction, allowing water to collect rather than run off.

The stone on the outside is being replaced, but the placement of the original windows will remain the same.

The building’s first floor stones remain. Builders believe those stones are basalt or diorite, and they’ll be reinforced with metal bars and attached to shotcrete interior walls. The missing sandstone will be replaced with freshly quarried limestone from Indiana, and will look quite similar to the way Education Hall looked when it was first built. In fact, Norman said they hired a Corvallis company, Devco Engineering, to laser map the entire exterior of the building before they removed the stones, and create a 3-D model of the building. That model is being used to cut the stones in the exact same way as the original stones, in order to replicate the exterior. It’s the first time that Fortis has used such a process on campus.

“There are two types of stone on the building,” explained Larrie Easterly, University Engineering Manager. “There is field stone and custom pieces. Those special pieces will be cut exactly the same size, and the field stones will be slightly different.”

The bigger field stone pieces will be slightly smaller than the sandstone ones quarried at the turn of last century. But the overall effect will strongly resemble the original exterior. The new roof will also mimic the original roofing, which was red (the current roof is greenish-gray), and a copper finial which once adorned the turret at the front of the building will be recreated based on archival photographs.

A worker walks through the interior of Education Hall during the renovation project. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Inside, airy design, lots of natural light, and much needed classroom space will transform the interior from a dark and slightly labyrinthine space to something much more modern. The building will be upgraded to ADA standards and now have men’s and women’s bathrooms on all floors.

“The first floor is about 75 percent university classroom space,” Stern said. “Those university classrooms are really needed.”

The first and second floor work should be complete by fall term, and by winter term, the third and fourth floors are expected to be finished. Most of the College of Education staff should be move into the building by Spring Term at the latest. Their newly refurbished home will be done just as the college is heading in a new direction, with a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and cultural and linguistic diversity.

Plastic sheeting forms a temporary wall inside Education Hall. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

The building will be LEED certified-equivalent, and much more efficient with new insulation, water saving fixtures, and a dependence on natural lighting. And the renovation will be nearly waste-free.

“We’re emphasizing reuse and recycling,” Norman said. “We’re recycling 99.9 percent of the building materials and avoiding putting things in the landfill.”

Recycled materials also will used in the new construction, including recycled fiber carpets. And stone benches will adorn the east side of the building, made out of some of the sandstone removed from the walls.

“It will look great when it’s done,” Easterly said.

Norman agreed. “It will be fantastic.”

~ Theresa Hogue

One Response to “Education Hall transforms before the eyes of campus”

  1. Scott Lommers says:

    “Corset and bloomers.” Well done.