Construction at 'Berg
A Vision of the Muhlenberg College Residential Experience-
Guiding the Renovation of East Hall
Existing Student Rooms
Each student bedroom in East Hall is unique. Students can select singles, doubles, triples, even split rooms that have partial walls within the room. Students enjoy the options and it would be important to keep a variety of room types available. At the same time, the building could benefit from a more efficient use of space. It would be best to plan for a ‘to the stud’ renovation in each room.
A “to the stud” renovation would allow for:
- The removal of partial walls that cause split rooms, which limit the arrangement of furniture within the room and in some cases interfere with egress from the room.
- The reconfiguration of small doubles and very large doubles so that there is some more equity in the size of rooms, while maintaining a variety of single, double, and triple rooms. Though we’d be open to reconfiguring the building to have singles and doubles.
- The complete repair of all walls, floors, and ceilings which have seen temporary repairs but need significant work to return East Hall to the standard of our other traditional housing.
- Lighting and electrical outlet count and location could be improved to meet the students’ needs.
- Install system with individual room controls that allows students to adjust the heat or air conditioning for each room.
- Residents shared that noise travel throughout the building is problematic. They can hear doors opening and closing as well as people walking down the hallway or using the bathroom. Need to investigate ways to reduce noises being transmitted between rooms and in common spaces.
- The sprinkler pipes currently take up head room and can interfere with residents’ ability to loft their beds. The pipes need to be relocated to allow for more head room and flexibility.
Head Residents (HRs) are student supervisors in the building where they work and live. Each HR has an apartment however the size of the apartment varies from building to building. The apartment affords them the opportunity to have an independent living space as well as a location to meet with his/her staff on a weekly basis.
The College has created a standard that includes a private bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living space. The current HR apartment was created as cost effectively as possible by using an existing bathroom. While the current apartment has a relatively new kitchen, we understand there may be a need to relocate the space in order to make overall improvements to flow throughout the building.
Hallways and Stairwells
The current structure of East Hall actually consists of seven small buildings connected to each other on various floors. Rather than the traditional model of one long hallway, residents are clustered around a shared bathroom and three vertical clusters make up one hall. This structure allows for residents to feel like they are part of a larger community, while having the privacy and familiarity that the small units offer. But this structure can be limiting. Students can be more isolated than they intended, and they don’t have convenient access to the same parts of the building.
Opening the first floor would allow for:
- Residents to have interior access to various parts of the building including other residents’ rooms, lounge spaces, and laundry facilities
- Accessibility in a building that is currently not ADA accessible in any space
- Reduce the dependence on 7 separate entrances and stairwells that could create space for reconfiguring resident rooms or adding common spaces
- Remaining stairwells should be updated to have matching materials used on the surfaces.
- Fire doors need to be addressed. There are many layers of doors which can make it confusing moving within the building. Additionally they often bang loudly and disturb the residents.
Residents have shared the current size of the bathrooms are problematic throughout the building. Doors to the bathrooms and the stalls often bang into each other. Students have to squeeze past another person using the sink in order to use the toilet/shower or to exit the bathroom.
- It is necessary to determine what would be the adequate number of bathrooms for the building. This number should allow for the possibility of reducing the number bathrooms while increasing the size of each bathroom to make it more user friendly and ADA compliant.
- Students are coming to campus with increased needs for private bedroom and bathrooms. Currently the College relies on a building that contains all double bedrooms and private bathrooms. Placing students in this building means the loss of bed space. Work should occur to create private rooms and bathrooms.
The uniqueness of the student bedrooms and the character of the building do offer appeal to residents, but East Hall does not provide the same common spaces that other traditional buildings offer. Surveys conducted over a period of years have shown that this is continually one of the highest reasons for dissatisfaction in East Hall. Muhlenberg prides itself in the resources that we offer to students in College Housing, but East Hall is lacking amenities that other traditional buildings offer.
In most traditional buildings, students have access to a common shared kitchen in a lounge. This allows students to occasionally cook or bake together. East Hall Residents do not have their own kitchen and instead share the Martin Luther kitchen. This not only doubles the number of people with access to the kitchen, but also provides a barrier for students because they need to go to another building to use a common kitchen.
There is one small lounge/computer lab for East Hall. It has furniture for 6-8 people and 2 computers. The lounge is a part of an opening in the hallway and is rarely used as a common meeting place because it feels more like a hallway than a lounge.
Despite the segmented structure of East Hall, there is only one laundry room, and students must go outside to access it. All other students in traditional buildings have interior access to their laundry rooms.
Students have suggested additional or improved lounges, a kitchen, interior access to a laundry room, a computer lab, and a recreational space that could have a ping pong table or a foosball table, etc.
- Install at least one kitchen for the building. Given the shape of East, 2 smaller kitchens might better serve the students.
- Create one common space larger enough for 30 to 40 residents to gather for a program or meeting. This space would also have space for a ping pong table and/or foosball table. Students have indicated in surveys they want these types of amenities somewhere in the building.
- Create smaller common areas for small group sessions or study areas, including a computer lab area (work with OIT on this).
- Explore the feasibility of creating common space in the basement area and/or the former living space above B Hall.
- Install 2 smaller, strategically placed laundry rooms in the interior of the building.
- Look at feasibility for an elevator that would offer access to upper floors to anyone (students or visitors) with mobility constraints.
Residents unanimously shared their desire to preserve the Quad area for student use. The Quad is used throughout the year as a social space and study space. It is looked at as the outdoor lounge for both East Hall and Martin Luther Hall residents. There is a desire to enhance the arch in East Hall while still keeping it accessible for residents for both East and Martin Luther Halls to enter the Quad area during the academic year as well as during opening and closing times.
As part of the four year residential experience at Muhlenberg College, residing in East Hall will continue to provide students with the opportunity to live in a residence hall with a unique character and rich history. They will have the independence to steer their own engagement based on their own development and needs, and have the resources to enhance their experience through student staff, programmatic efforts, and interaction with students of three different class years. From facilities, services, and programmatic perspectives, a renovation will be designed to fuse the history of East Hall with the evolving preferences, needs, and expectations of current and future Muhlenberg students.