Eastern Connecticut State University’s new student facilities are scheduled to open in 2004 and 2005.

Following the latest trend at institutions of higher learning, one of the state’s universities is adding three new suite-style residence halls as an incentive for students to stay on campus.

Perini Building Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Framingham, Mass.-based Perini Corp., in joint venture with Plainville-based Manafort Bros. and in association with architecture and interior design firm ADD Inc., broke ground last week on three new student residences at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic. Gov. John G. Rowland lauded Dr. David G. Carter, president of the university, for his vision and leadership, as evidenced by a “new pride” in the university and the continued growth of the campus.

Construction of the $49 million, phased design/build program began in June. The foundation of the first of three buildings – a five-story, 66,759-square-foot freshman dormitory – is already in place. The dormitory will be built as a fast-track project and is slated for completion in August 2004. The two remaining buildings – upperclassman residence halls with suites – will be built in accordance with plans and contract documents developed during the construction of the first phase of the project. The buildings are scheduled to be finished in time for the start of the fall 2005 semester.

ADD currently has five residence halls in various stages of construction and production, and principal in charge Michael Hass noted several trends in the field.

“Basically, we’re seeing a real consistent movement toward more apartment-type living,” he said. “We’re certainly seeing more suites, normally meaning suites in the sense that there is a fairly large percentage of single bedrooms, living rooms common to those four, five or six students and, obviously, bathroom facilities and kitchens.”

The kitchen facilities at ECSU are fairly complete kitchens with stoves, refrigerators and sinks, while suites at other sites only include space for small refrigerators and microwaves.

“Everybody seems to be looking at apartment-style living. You don’t have to walk around the corner to the bathroom; you’ve got one in your own room,” said Hass. “Some institutions are going to actual apartment developers and effectively constructing apartment buildings to live in. It’s an incentive to make living on campus more like life off campus.”

At ECSU, he said, the effort is geared toward bringing more students back onto the campus and away from residential areas, as well as enticing commuter students to move on campus.

“Obviously, they need to give students something that they’ve had before, like independence and the ability to cook,” said Hass.

‘A Little Variation’

Within the dorms there are also social spaces, which are provided a little more intensely then they have been in the past. The dorms at ECSU will include “significant” social spaces, including game rooms and meeting areas, as well as on-floor lounges. Meeting and study spaces are particularly increased in dorms with double bedrooms, allowing students more private areas outside of their rooms.

“There is a lot available in dorms today,” said Hass. “There is a little variation at Eastern Connecticut between buildings. One is a freshman building, and we did approach the freshman building a little differently. The suites don’t include living rooms so that students are more encouraged to socialize in bigger groups rather than hunker down in their rooms.”

There are more double rooms in the freshman dorm, where the two upperclassman residence halls are exclusively single-bedroom suites.

Hass said that the design/build aspect of the project has been working well. No stranger to the construction format, ADD recently received an award for its design/build work at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

“We have a good history of design/build in general,” said Hass. “We’ve done this before, and not just in academic circumstances, so we’re aware of what it takes to work with a contractor who has to put in a price and is at risk. We want to get every bit of value out of that money for the client that we can, which can create an interesting dynamic. If we don’t keep communication open with the builder, we’re not going to get anywhere.”

Hass noted that “Perini is a very good contractor, and they want to deliver a good product, so we’re all in the same place. Before you even start designing you’ve got a fixed budget and program, and all that can make life a little more complicated.”

The groups meet on a weekly basis to discuss the project and its progress. In today’s work environment of cell phones and e-mail, Hass said that he is in almost constant contact with other members of the project team.

“Not a day goes by where there aren’t issues, and there’s always give and take in the budget,” he said. “We might save money here and spend a little more there, or we find something that isn’t coming in at budget as we expected. We try to keep the university involved as much as we can, and in the case of ECSU, Perini has the contract with the state and we have a contract with Perini. It isn’t the typical three-legged stool, as they call it.”

Without the design/build format, Hass said that the project would not have survived its fast-track deadlines. The contract for the freshman building was awarded on June 1, and the ground was scheduled to break on Aug. 15. That left ADD only two-and-a-half months to design the dorm from scratch.

Ground broke with only a foundation permit, with the rest of the permits to follow in September.

“This never could happen without design/build,” said Hass. “We had to be dead certain about the building design. The structure had to be fixed. Some parts were flexible, like the exterior skin details and the interior finishes. That was all stuff that could be ordered and finagled later, but when you’re laying a foundation, you have to know where the walls are, and where the supports go.”

The freshman dorm was also somewhat challenging, because it is built on a hillside with entrances at grade from two different levels, and including basement space.

“We chose our design/build team based on their commitment to our goals,” said Scott Jellison, project manager for the Connecticut Department of Public Works, administrator of the project. “The Manafort/Perini joint venture and ADD demonstrated early on that they understood their roles and responsibilities, and that they would be respectful of the experience, talents and contributions of their team partners. As on any job, there may be obstacles ahead, but I have no doubt that we will open the doors to incoming freshmen on Aug. 15, 2004.”

“It was essential for everyone on the project to embrace the design/build process,” said Bob Guerette, project manager of the Manafort/Perini joint venture. “The buildings will be LEED Certified, that is, will meet performance standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program established by the U.S. Green Building Council. Our goal is to build sustainability into the design, to use environmentally friendly materials, and choose mechanical/electrical systems that will achieve energy savings and efficiencies.”

“We have a great collaborative team here,” said Joe Sziabowski, project manager for ADD. “Design/build projects pose challenges, but I’ve found great benefit in working with the contractor from the very beginning of this project. The Connecticut DPW and the facilities group at Eastern Connecticut State University are very proactive. We have tremendous cooperation from the offices also received of the state building inspector and fire marshal. Whether design/build or design-bid-build, success depends on the character of the individuals involved and how well they work together.”

“We have a great partnership with Manafort Bros.,” added Guerette. “They have an excellent relationship with the Connecticut DPW and the university. Together, we make a great team.”

Major design team members include BVH Integrated Services in Bloomfield, which is working on structural engineering and mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Vanasse Hangen Brustlin in Middletown is handling the landscape design.

Perini Corp. and its companies provide general contracting services, including building and civil construction, construction management, and design/build services to private clients and public agencies in the United States and selected overseas locations. Perini Building Co. is known for its construction expertise in hospitality and gaming, corrections, health care, education, and sports and entertainment.

Founded in 1919, Manafort Bros. has earned a national reputation for excellence in excavation and foundation work. The company has become known for quality, completeness and excellence in total site-development contracting.

ADD Inc., a national architecture, interior and graphic design firm with offices in Cambridge, Mass., San Francisco and Miami, synthesizes client goals and emerging technologies to deliver design services for its residential, mixed-use and commercial, retail and entertainment, corporate, biotechnology and academic clients.