About five months into the yearlong renovation of Chase Hall, Project Manager Kristi Mynhier feels that the undertaking has turned an important corner.

The first phase of construction, Mynhier points out, was dominated by demolition and by the abatement of hazardous materials. Those processes uncovered conditions that necessitated changes of plan and unforeseen work, including additional demo and abatement. Every construction project has its surprises, but they’ve abounded in Chase, for a variety of reasons.

But now the demo and abatement days are done, fundamentally changing the course of the renovation. “We’ve finally [transitioned] from being reactive, while we discovered and uncovered, to being proactive,” says Mynhier. “That’s probably the most crucial part of a project, when you can start to look forward and plan properly, rather than consistently discovering new things and having to pivot. 

“That’s where you start to get good progress.”

Site work is progressing at the entrance to Chase Hall on Campus Avenue, near Carnegie. The new retaining walls flank the course of a ramp that will lead to a revamped lobby on the ground floor. The wing walls in the foreground will be fronted with built-in concrete benches — an amenity for folks waiting at the bus stop that will return to this spot post-renovation. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Site work is progressing at the entrance to Chase Hall on Campus Avenue, near Carnegie. The new retaining walls flank the course of a ramp that will lead to a revamped lobby on the ground floor. The wing walls in the foreground will be fronted with built-in concrete benches — an amenity for folks waiting at the bus stop that will return to this spot post-renovation. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Former stairwell, future atrium at a Campus Avenue entrance to Chase Hall. The wall "stripes" show where the stairs used to be. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Former stairwell, future atrium at a Campus Avenue entrance to Chase Hall. The wall “stripes” show where the stairs used to be. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Workers plan the next step in the creation of a new stairway near the entrance facing Carnegie Science. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Workers plan the next step in the creation of a new stairway near the entrance facing Carnegie Science. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

While remaining a main entrance into Chase Hall from Campus Avenue, the former stairwell near the Kenison Gate will become a sort of atrium admitting light into the building. Shown is one of two points where the floor will be extended into the atrium. The other is the next level up. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

While remaining a main entrance into Chase Hall from Campus Avenue, the former stairwell near the Kenison Gate will become a sort of atrium admitting light into the building. Shown is one of two points where the floor will be extended into the atrium. The other is the next level up. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The east end of Chase Hall Lounge. The arch and surrounding bricks will be left exposed, but sheetrock will cover the righthand half of the wall. Peeping through the doorway are Bates Project Manager Kristi Mynhier and a project engineer. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The east end of Chase Hall Lounge. The arch and surrounding bricks will be left exposed, but sheetrock will cover the righthand half of the wall. Peeping through the doorway are Bates Project Manager Kristi Mynhier and a project engineer. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Surprise! Beneath the wallboard, the Chase renovation team expected to find a solid brick wall separating Chase Lounge from the lobby — but what was there instead were two brick columns. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Surprise! Beneath the wallboard, the Chase renovation team expected to find a solid brick wall separating Chase Lounge from the lobby — but what was there instead were two brick columns. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Shown is the Chase entrance into the courtyard shared with Carnegie Science. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Shown is the Chase entrance into the courtyard shared with Carnegie Science. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The angled wooden beams are load-bearing trusses that are original to this century-old section of Chase Hall. When the current renovation is complete, they will be partially exposed as an allusion to the building's history.

The angled wooden beams are load-bearing trusses that are original to this century-old section of Chase Hall. When the current renovation is complete, they will be partially exposed as an allusion to the building’s history. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The rush is on to frame up walls in the front half of Chase Hall. Shown is what will be a warren of Purposeful Work offices and meeting rooms. At left rear is the former main staircase connecting the three floors of the original structure. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The rush is on to frame up walls in the front half of Chase Hall. Shown is what will be a warren of Purposeful Work offices and meeting rooms. At left rear is the former main staircase connecting the three floors of the original structure. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

One of the last of several surprises that lent the Chase project such a thrill-ride quality, and gave Campus Construction Update so much great material (it’s always better when we don’t have to make things up), appeared in September.

Wooden floors in the building are supported by long beams, aka joists, whose ends rest in notches in the interior brick wall. Demolition in Chase Hall Lounge, though, revealed that the ends of a number of joists overhead had been sawed off, denying them contact with the joist pockets in the brick. 

The precise motivation for removing the joist ends isn’t known, but that work was done adjacent to windows. It’s believed that incoming moisture, whether because the window units failed or someone failed to close them, rotted the joists.

To compensate for the lost support, the cut ends were fastened together with additional pieces of lumber, serving as ledger boards. These in turn were attached to the brick wall, but this doesn’t provide the same quality of support as the original arrangement. That created some saggy spots in the second floor. But baseboard heaters concealed the cause of the droopiness until their removal during demo.

The fix, Mynhier explains, will entail removing interior brick where joist pockets once were, connecting the truncated joist ends to the exterior layer of brick with metal “ties,” and then rebuilding the interior wall. (In cross-section, the wall in question consists of a double exterior layer and a single interior layer, separated by an air gap.)

Joist right: Seen from below in Chase Hall Lounge, the thick gray wood at center is a joist supporting Chase Hall’s second floor. The joist end rests in a notch, or "pocket,” in the brick wall that helps bear the weight of the floor. Damaged by moisture, other joists had their ends cut off and a different, and less effective, wall attachment installed. The joist joints will be remedied during the current renovation. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Joist right: Seen from below in Chase Hall Lounge, the thick gray wood at center is a joist supporting Chase Hall’s second floor. The joist end rests in a notch, or “pocket,” in the brick wall that helps bear the weight of the floor. Damaged by moisture, other joists had their ends cut off and a different, and less effective, wall attachment installed. The joist joints will be remedied during the current renovation. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

One flight up from the previous photo, empty joist pockets in the brick wall are obvious. The ends of floor joists once rested in those pockets, thereby supporting the floor, but were sawed off because of moisture damage. Called a ledger, the doubled board parallel to the brick was intended to take the weight once borne by the pockets, but hasn't quite been up to the task, causing the second floor to sag. To fix the problem, metal ties that reconnect the joists to the brick will be installed. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

One flight up from the previous photo, empty joist pockets in the brick wall are obvious. The ends of floor joists once rested in those pockets, thereby supporting the floor, but were sawed off because of moisture damage. Called a ledger, the doubled board parallel to the brick was intended to take the weight once borne by the pockets, but hasn’t quite been up to the task, causing the second floor to sag. To fix the problem, metal ties that reconnect the joists to the brick will be installed. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The Chase Lounge windows to the right of center mark the approximate location of the overhead joists shown in the previous images. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The Chase Lounge windows to the right of center mark the approximate location of the overhead joists shown in the previous images. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

“It’s probably been about a month from initial discovery of the problem to having the engineer look at it, bringing the abatement contractor back to do the Chase Lounge ceiling, and then having the engineer finalize the plan” for repair.

So you can see how the whack-a-mole nature of exigency response in the Chase project has caused some shuffling of timetables. As we reported in September, the amount of effort going into MEP infrastructure — mechanical, electrical, plumbing — will be doubled from the original plan. That will happen around the beginning of November, as workers on the first floor start to complement those who have been busy upstairs for a few weeks now.

“In the next month you’ll see the overhead mechanical work continue,” Mynhier explains — “mechanical” referring largely but not exclusively to HVAC. “That’s really our critical path for the entire job.” 

“Also, to minimize the impact to the schedule,” she adds, “we’ve started framing everywhere” — meaning that the metal and wooden studs that hold walls up are being erected and, in effect, making floor plans visible. “That allows the in-wall [MEP] rough-ins to continue and allows us to at least get board on the walls.”

This abyss adjacent to the once and future Office of Intercultural Education (out of the frame at left) will contain a new stairway and elevator to connect the different levels of Chase Hall. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)
This abyss adjacent to the once and future Office of Intercultural Education (out of the frame at left) will contain the new central stair and an elevator to connect four levels of Chase Hall. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

In fact, placing wallboard is well underway on the second floor, whose layout will be the least altered by the renovation. On the first floor, the former lobby and Purposeful Work area is a forest of metal studs and two-by-fours that will ultimately coalesce into the largest unified office space Purposeful Work has enjoyed thus far. And on the ground level, the first few studs for Student Affairs offices have appeared in the former College Store retail area.

“In December floor coverings will begin on the second floor,” Mynhier says, which will mark, if you will, the start of finish work.

Grand Central Stair: In December, too, assembly of a new Chase landmark will begin: what the project team refers to, variously, as the grand or central stair. 

The square pit will be the base for a new Chase Hall elevator. The sign that says "Hole" covers the footing for one of the steel columns that will support new stairs and floors in this space adjacent to the once and future Office of Intercultural Education (out of the frame at left). (Doug Hubley/Bates College)
The square pit will be the base for a new elevator. The sign that says “Hole” covers the footing for one of the steel columns that will support new stairs and floors in this space adjacent to the Office of Intercultural Education. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

“All of the wood is on site for the stair treads and landings, and the steel [for structural support] is on its way,” says Mynhier.

Sited near the Office of Intercultural Education, which will return to its old quarters in Chase at renovation’s end, a new elevator shaft will form the core of a staircase that rises from the ground floor (which really seems like the only logical way to go) and tops out at the OIE level. From there, a nearby stairway original to the building serves the second floor. (At the other end of Chase, near Carnegie Science, a current elevator and a new set of stairs will also terminate at the second floor.) 

Handy to the existing Campus Avenue entrance near Muskie Archives, the central stair will constitute one of the main arteries, if you will, through Chase. It will touch four building levels — ground floor; the Residence Life and Health Education area a half-level up, near the loading dock; the first floor; and the OIE floor, another half-level higher. (A fun fact for readers, if not for the renovation team, is that Chase Hall, with its two additions, is a three-story building containing nine discrete floor levels.)  

Framers create a vestibule in Chase Hall’s lobby that will enclose new stairs connecting three levels. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)
Framers create a vestibule in Chase Hall’s lobby that will enclose new stairs connecting three levels. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The central stair will be built in the area behind Chase Hall Lounge that we referred to last month as an abyss, created by removing two big sections of concrete floor slab. Now visible at the bottom of that gulf are a square depression that will provide a base for the elevator, and a pattern of holes where steel columns will be set to hold up the stairway and new floor slabs.

Meanwhile, we learned more about the building’s other main artery, which will begin where it always has — the Campus Avenue entrance near the Kenison Gate — but will otherwise give visitors an experience nearly as new as what the central stair has in store. 

The definitive differences lie at the street entrance itself. For one thing, as we’ve reported previously, entry to Chase will now occur a bit below ground level, via a ramp descending from the sidewalk. That will lead to a lobby sited approximately where, back in the day, you used to find your P.O. box and the College Store.

But a change more dramatic than the ramp involves the three-story former staircase just inside the door: The stairs are gone, they won’t be back, and that space instead will be a sort of atrium spilling light on people as they come and go, and, via glass interior walls, bringing daylight more deeply into the building as well. In fact, on the first and second levels, floor space will be extended into the atrium. 

These century-old wooden trusses on the second floor, and others downstairs, will be left partially exposed as a reminder of Chase Hall's history. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

These century-old wooden trusses on the second floor, and others downstairs, will be left partially exposed as a reminder of Chase Hall’s history. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Four rooms were combined to create an open space on the second floor. Note the stockpiles of wallboard and the new HVAC infrastructure, including the boxlike fan-coil unit, on the ceiling. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Four rooms were combined to create an open space on the second floor. Note the stockpiles of wallboard and the new HVAC infrastructure, including the boxlike fan-coil unit, on the ceiling. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

New steel replaces a load-bearing wall on the second floor.

New steel replaces a load-bearing wall on the second floor. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

A technician connects a new HVAC fan-coil unit in a second-floor office in Chase Hall. Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work — aka MEP — is a high priority in the Chase Hall renovation these days. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

A technician connects a new HVAC fan-coil unit in a second-floor office in Chase Hall. Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work — aka MEP — is a high priority in the Chase Hall renovation these days. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

New wallboard lines the corridor on Chase Hall’s second floor. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

New wallboard lines the corridor on Chase Hall’s second floor. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The construction zone in front of Chase Hall contains supplies — lumber, weatherproofing fabric, various forms of rebar, etc. At lower left, a hose drains an excavation near the building. To the right of center are new retaining walls near a building entrance. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The construction zone in front of Chase Hall contains supplies — lumber, weatherproofing fabric, various forms of rebar, etc. At lower left, a hose drains an excavation near the building. To the right of center are new retaining walls near a building entrance. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Wall framing has begun in what will be Student Affairs offices in the ground floor space occupied long ago by the College Store. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Wall framing has begun in what will be Student Affairs offices in the ground floor space occupied long ago by the College Store. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

This space once housed stairs connecting the three levels of the original 1919 Chase Hall. Still a main entrance to the building but with stairwise access moved elsewhere, it will be repurposed as an atrium. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

This space once housed stairs connecting the three levels of the original 1919 Chase Hall. Still a main entrance to the building but with stairwise access moved elsewhere, it will be repurposed as an atrium. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

“It becomes more of a viewing area and a welcoming walk-in,” says Mynhier.

Once you’ve entered Chase through the atrium, you’ll find a variety of new and old stairways and elevators to take you where you’re going. 

So, in a sense, the central stair will take on the role of the stairs that are now gone from the atrium— that is, a consolidated means of accessing different levels of the building. Which is all, of course, more of a conceptual than practical distinction. After all, a key goal for the entire makeover is to render Chase easier to get around in.    

And speaking of that, retaining walls flanking the path of the forthcoming entrance ramp have been placed, as have foundations for two wing walls that will line the sidewalk. And a precast concrete drainage system will be installed along the Campus Avenue facade in the next couple of weeks.   

Can we talk? Campus Construction Update welcomes queries and comments about current, past, future, and current construction at Bates. Write to dhubley@bates.edu, putting “Campus Construction” or “Didn’t the knights of olde used to joist? Did they ever get board?” in the subject line.

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