Straub Hall reopens as work continues on classrooms

The renovation of Straub Hall, which began in fall 2013, is nearing completion after its two major components — deferred maintenance and a classroom expansion — totaled out at around $44 million.

The remodel is the first major improvement on the hall since its construction in 1928.

While several new classrooms and large lecture halls won’t open until spring, faculty offices and the psychology and linguistics departments are now fully functional and open to the campus community.

The renovation was a much-needed makeover to the old building, which was originally built as a four-story dormitory and later converted into an academic building in the 1970s. Because of the age of the building and the wear and tear from its years as a dorm, several internal systems began to fail and the building did not meet current American Disability Association regulations.

“The project originated as a deferred maintenance project,” said Gene Mowery, a UO campus planning associate. With all the changes that needed to be made, however, the university faced a larger question.

“We had to decide whether to take a surgical approach or to do a complete gut and rebuild. In the end, it was more cost-effective to do the gut and rebuild,” Mowery said.

Tasked with a complete remodel of an aged building, the university wanted to preserve as much of its historic character as feasible while also meeting the fundamental academic needs of students and faculty.

“The building is important in the history of the university, so a lot of the original woodwork and tiling in the lobby remains intact or restored,” Mowery said.

The hallways and stairwells have been expanded and the entry to the building has been regraded in order to meet the various accessibility requirements of the American Disability Association.

Additionally, an energy-efficient active chilled beam heating and cooling system has been installed; special monitors in each room detect air temperature and can then adjust. Additional sensors throughout the building also measure daylight input from the windows and can regulate brightness levels accordingly through controls on dimmable light fixtures.

“We came up with some clever solutions to preserve the historic nature of the building as well as improving the heating, cooling and ventilation systems in the building to be energy-efficient,” said Christopher Ramey, associate vice president for campus planning and real estate.

Even with the significant challenge of outfitting an old building with modern systems, Straub Hall is on track to become LEED Gold-level certified because the building will be 35 percent more energy-efficient than the Oregon Energy Code requires. The Straub project joins a growing list of campus construction ventures that have earned LEED certification.

The numerous improvements also include restored restrooms for faculty and students that feature new tile and natural daylight, a 140-seat lecture hall, five additional classrooms with modern furniture and screens on each wall as well as large skylights — also dimmable — over common areas.

Perhaps the biggest change to Straub Hall will be the brand-new 520-seat lecture room, which features a seating balcony and an immense projection screen on the wall behind the stage. The classroom will be the first on campus to have two levels.

Construction on the lecture halls and classrooms is scheduled to wrap up in the coming weeks and will be open for spring term classes, allowing the next highly anticipated classroom remodel — 150 Columbia — to begin in the spring.

—By Nathaniel Brown, Public Affairs Communications