A shiny, clean kitchen space on the main floor. Bathrooms with new tiles, faucets, toilets and showers. Outdated carpets replaced in dorm rooms. Beneath the surface, brand new pipes and wires. These are just some of the changes to Traber Hall this semester, which was the focus of a major renovation over the summer.
In what should have been an eight to ten-month project, the college’s facilities department staff managed to renovate Traber Hall in two and a half months. This August, Traber welcomed new and returning students with numerous updates including new bathrooms, lounges, and carpeting.
Traber, the all-male side of Smith-Traber residence hall, consists of seven floors and houses freshmen and sophomores. When it was constructed in 1970, it was the tallest building in the city of Wheaton. It was named after former trustee George M. Traber in 1972.
Director of Facilities Jay Bieszke found Traber Hall and the campus water pipe system to be high priority projects over the summer. With little time, they had to renovate the heating and air conditioning systems, plumbing and living spaces in Traber.
To make the deadline, facilities organized a construction contract six months prior to beginning renovations. Building parts were often created offsite before work ever started on campus, making it more plausible to fit everything in on time.
According to Chief Financial Officer Chad Rynbrandt, the urgency of the projects and the lack of available college funds to pay for them meant the money had to be borrowed. Rynbrandt did not specify how much the projects cost.
“Thankfully, the college has rarely used debt funding and so does not have much [debt] compared with other schools our size,” he said.
With a detailed schedule and the creation of shifts to double the number of workers on the job, the project was finished on time.
Although giving Traber a facelift was part of the project, beautification was not the residence hall’s biggest problem. The structure needed updated plumbing, heating and air cooling systems. These systems, however, are buried within the walls of Traber itself, requiring major renovation.
Bieszke said that to push the systems further would have been to decrease the quality of residence life for students and create a safety concern for employees.
“The old systems were a hazard to the staff operating them,” said Bieszke. “Our new systems are intended to provide added levels of safety for the facilities staff.”
Dean of Residence Life Justin Heth said that the renovations created an opportunity to incorporate an aesthetic update to Traber living spaces as well.
This fall, 216 Traber residents returned to campus. Many spoke positively about the interior updates.
“I feel more welcomed in my own room,” said sophomore Daniel Her, who lived on the fourth floor of Traber last year. Her and fellow sophomore Jordan Lee said the new lounges and bathrooms made the space feel cleaner.
In addition to the Traber project, switching the campus-wide water system from steam to heat was also a major project completed over the summer. Workers dug trenches, installed pipes and fixed pre-existing pipes from Coray Gym all the way to Billy Graham Hall. Across campus, new pavement and landscaping are the only remaining trace of the work that was done under the surface.
Looking ahead, Bieszke said that one future project is renovating McAllister Hall, currently vacant, as a new space for the modern and classical languages department in light of recent “failures” at the aging Wyngarden Hall, where they are currently housed.