A painter applies finishing coats on an upper-level hallway in the newly-renovated Elizabeth Residential College. Colors in the building were chosen to match the college’s navy blue and burgundy coat of arms.

Murray State University is nearing completion of the $7.2 million project to renovate Elizabeth Residential College, and university officials say they are pleased with the results.

The upgrading residential college remained closed for the entirety of the 2011-12 academic year, meaning students who were members of Elizabeth College made their homes in the top three floors of Old Richmond College. But at the start of school in late August, site contractors and university officials say the new living space will be ready for move-in.

The residential college has reached 90 percent completion in what officials have called a complete gutting, where essentially exterior walls and necessary support beams were the only portions of the facility left untouched. The project, which began accepting bids almost exactly a year ago, has stayed well on budget, said Kim Oatman, chief facilities officer and director of facilities design and construction. David Construction Inc. of Louisville won the final bid and has been working on-site ever since.

Oatman said the living facility was in the worst condition of all high-rises on campus, and needed upgrading to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status. In preparation, Facilities Management worked with other areas of the university in garnering support and seeking input.

David Brickeen, assistant director of facilities design and construction said student input was especially important, as the building would be occupied predominately by them.

“We worked with Housing for four to six months to really get that student input,” he said.

And that is what Oatman said he thinks the university has created for students returning in the fall. Students sought more open community space in the new building, so Pete Reyna, senior project manager, said designers and contractors worked on opening up the entrance floor. The ground floor of the residential college will open up to an unobtrusive front desk that highlights a large built-in wall calendar featuring university and residential college events. The southernmost end of the large room features a high-ceilinged area lit by floor-to-ceiling windows and outfitted with large couches, tables and an enormous flat-screen, wall-mounted television. Along one wall of the room, offices for residential college employees are set available to students, but not intruding into their living areas. The large ground space will also include a large community kitchen and dining area, mailroom and rest rooms..

Each floor above that has two-person bedrooms that line the exterior walls of the building. In the center of each floor is a large study and lounge area and large community bathrooms and showers. On every other floor, study areas also include laundry rooms for students.

Oatman said the entire interior of the building will feature new colors that highlight the residential college’s navy blue and burgundy coat of arms.

Curved walls were also an important part of the design process. Reyna said the designers tried to curve walls when possible to put a more modern, student-oriented look in the building.

Overall, those who have been involved in the year-long project to overhaul the aging residence said they are proud of the work they and David Construction have done. Oatman said one of Elizabeth’s biggest problems since the first day it opened several decades ago was its position on campus.

“That really is the main problem with this building,” Oatman said. “It faces north-south, and the two sides get so much sun exposure during parts of the day, and it causes problems from one side of the building to the other.”

To combat that, Oatman said a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system has been installed in the building that will have more control and will adjust when necessary, according to the position of the sun. The system saves the university a great deal of energy, which may lead to a LEED silver award, a step above state requirements in environmental safety.

“It means that we’re going to save energy in the future, and we’re saving the environment,” he said. “We’ve taken measures to recycle waste that’s coming out of the building, and the contractors are actually measuring all that waste.”

Elizabeth College was the first on a list of high-rise residential facilities on campus that were slated for internal renovations, Oatman said. Consultants were hired in 2006, after Lee Clark and James Richmond colleges were rebuilt. The university wanted to devise an outline to follow in the long-term renovations of Hester and Hart colleges, but economic instability nationwide led to a more sluggish and reluctant state budget, and Oatman said renovations in other facilities will be stalled until state approval is certain. The Elizabeth renovation was paid for out of internal funds.

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