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New residence hall to increase number of beds and common space

A residence hall to replace the Castle will have 164 beds and will cost approximately $38 million according to Jim Gray, vice president for Campus Operations.

Four floors will be divided between two wings. “It’s nice that the building turns so that you don’t have a bowling alley effect,” Gray said. The first floor of one wing of the building will not contain student housing. Instead, a large common room will provide a space to house events, seating up to 100 people.

A smaller studio space on this floor will be available for club use. “We imagine this would be an excellent additional practice space for a lot of student clubs like a cappella groups or dance clubs,” Gray said. The floor will also house a kitchen. Gray referred to the entirety of this space as the “upper commons.”

The residence hall will comply with standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning that it will be wheelchair accessible, and an elevator will run between floors. Each room will either be a double or single. The administration will avoid putting triples in the space, according to Gray.

“We’ve got a lot of great common space in this building,” Gray said. Each floor will have a common area or lounge. This can be said of almost every non-suite-style residence hall on campus. However, the new residence hall will also include study spaces that are able to seat eight to 10 students. “I know there is a shortage of good study spaces on campus. The reason that we have so many in this residence hall is partly to begin to address what is, in the mind of many students, a very serious problem,” Gray said.

The new building will incorporate sustainability features present elsewhere on campus. Solar panels on the roof will provide small carbon offsets and assist with peak campus demand management, according to Gray.

This will be the first building on campus to introduce a geothermal system for heating and cooling. Thirty to 40 wells will create a circuit that uses underground temperature to heat the building in the winter and cool it in the summer. Other buildings on campus use either steam or electrical heat, according to the housing section in the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook. The geothermal system will be a “highly sustainable feature,” according to Gray.

The main architect team of the hall is William Rawn Associates. Leggat McCall Properties, Shawmut Design and Construction and Brandeis Campus Operations and Campus Planning teams will assist with other elements of the project.

Demolition of the Castle will not begin until late May, after finals. Towers A and B, as promised by the university, will remain standing. However, due to its free-standing nature, the interior of Tower B must be renovated. Specifically, changes will be made to Chum’s Coffeehouse to ensure that it is compliant with modern building codes. Renovations will take place over the summer so that Chum’s can reopen for the 2017-2018 school year.

Construction will occur throughout the 2017-2018 school year. Residents of East may be affected. “It’s going to be, at times, a little bit noisy and disruptive probably, mostly for people in East,” Gray said.

The new residence hall will include about 60 beds more than the Castle. When examining the project last year, the university concluded that renovating the Castle would cost more than replacing it. They also determined that renovations to the Castle would decrease the amount of beds available rather than increase it.

“We have an exciting new residence hall plan, which I think represents an excellent step forward in housing Brandeis students,” Gray said.

The project will be financed through bonds as a donor has not stepped forward to assist in the project. For this reason, the hall remains unnamed.

The new residence hall plans to open for the Fall 2019 semester.

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