UNT moved swiftly to online courses and telecommuting work in response to COVID-19. However, as the campus community left, a group of essential staff remained to continue upgrades that will sustain the needs of students, faculty and staff for years to come.
“Construction at UNT often is the most visible sign of growth, modernization and progress,” said David Reynolds, Facilities Associate Vice President. “The work done behind the scenes to care for our campus is crucial to the mission of our university. This work supports the learning and work environment of our students, faculty, staff, and guests.”
The Maintenance and Project Management teams adjusted their operations to maintain social distancing and follow proper health guidelines so that they could continue keeping the campus clean, functioning safely, and so that construction activities already underway and planned kept moving forward.
“We are here to serve the UNT community by ensuring that the physical environment of the campus is functioning at the highest levels of safety, efficiency, and comfort,” said Vince Stippec, Assistant Director of Facilities Maintenance. “It’s a great responsibility that we take seriously and we have been up to the challenges presented by the virus pandemic.”
Perhaps one of the most visible of these projects is the work happening to modernize the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems for Willis Library. Built in 1969, the building’s infrastructure needed upgrades. Work has been ongoing for the past year and is now nearing the final stages of completion. The second floor upgrades were complete on May 4th, with upgrades to the third and fourth floors complete earlier in the year. New air handling units serving the first floor were installed, along with a new generator to support the Library Data Center. Electrical systems were upgraded for the entire building. A new fire water main and fire pump room will serve the brand new fire sprinkler system being installed throughout the library.
“The UNT community has been extremely patient and understanding during this process,” said Scott Harris, Mechanical Engineer for Facilities Planning, Design and Construction. “We are also grateful to have such attentive and cooperative partners, including Willis Library Director Scott Jackson and his entire team; general contractor Vaughn Construction; subcontractors Berger Engineering, C&G Electrical and Mid-South Fire Protection; our UNT maintenance technicians and construction inspectors.”
Renovations will continue on the library’s first floor and lower level over the summer. The UNT community will notice some of these improvements, such as 20 new dual bottle-fill water fountains throughout the building.
Students and faculty will also soon see enhancements to the College of Music’s Recital Hall and Merrill Ellis Intermedia Theater spaces. The work being done supports improved teaching, learning, and performance experiences.
Both rooms are receiving audio/visual technology upgrades. The Recital Hall, used for music recitals and lectures, is also receiving renovations such as acoustical enhancements and accessibility upgrades. The A/V systems in the Recital Hall will be re-designed with a focus on high-quality sound reinforcement and video presentation, plus audio and video recording to support the day to day uses. The Merrill Ellis Intermedia Theater is similar to the Recital Hall in its use as a multi-function space. Additional renovations to the theater include HVAC, sound and lighting upgrades. Improvements to this space will provide a more seamless video image, improved aural registration to the visual images, and the addition of sound isolation and variable acoustic treatments.
“It’s an honor to be the project manager for these improvements, as the College of Music is recognized nationally,” said Kim Nguyen, manager of Campus Planning. “It’s a privilege to be a part of a collaborative team with the College of Music, Turner Construction and Facilities in bringing a dream that spans multiple deans to fruition.”
Safety is also top of mind when it comes to work on campus. Recently, upgrades to LED lighting technology were made around Clark Hall and Maple Hall. Lighting around each building was increased and intensified and the LED fixtures provide the added benefit of low operating costs. Additionally, pole lights were added along Ave C between the halls to improve visibility and safety in an area that sees high foot traffic and was historically shadowed by heavy tree canopy cover. This included 10 light poles along Avenue C near Maple and Clark Halls; two lighting fixtures in the front of Maple and four along the walkway on the northeast side of the building; and replacement and addition of lighting fixtures at both areas.
“It was essential to complete this lighting project to support safety on that end of campus and to meet our standards for supporting campus security,” said Randy Salsman, Senior Construction Project Manager. “Even though the campus community has been gone for some time, we contribute to the experience of the students, faculty, staff and visitors by making sure that when they return they will have a safe and usable campus. It is an honor to continue serving UNT by managing construction projects,” said Randy Salsman, who managed the Maple and Clark Hall lighting project.
Many other construction and improvement projects are planned for the coming months. UNT community members can find information on these at the Facilities website or by following their social media accounts on Twitter or Facebook.
“Communication with the campus helps our community better understand what we do for them,” said Reynolds. “We encourage the UNT community to reach out for more information. Every day, we strive to provide the best service possible and we want our students, faculty, staff and guests to get to know us, to know what we are doing, and to understand how much we care for them.”