Harris Hall gains bed space through renovation

One of the primary disadvantages of renovating a residence hall is the attendant loss of bed space that almost always goes with such a project. That's why Todd Schill, director of Residential Services in Campus Life, was so delighted when the recent renovation of Harris Hall resulted in an increase of 48 bed spaces.

The finishing touches are being completed this week on the nearly $6-million renovation project, which increased Harris Hall's bed space from 307 to 355. Schill said the additional space came from the conversion of some private bathrooms to common bathrooms that serve adjoining rooms; the conversion of some previously unused attic space to rooms housing 13 students; and the conversion of other unused space to student bed space.

"Harris Hall is at its optimum efficiency in the use of space," said Schill. "Harris now represents one of the highest standards of living available on campus. It's comparable to living in Woodruff or Turman (residence halls)."

Begun last spring, the project included gutting the entire interior of the five-story, 41,000-square-foot residence hall, which was designed by renowned Atlanta architect Philip Shutze and built in 1928. An addition to the building was constructed in 1953. The exterior of Harris Hall was cleaned and repainted as well.

Cable and telecommunications wiring was added to Harris as part of the renovation. All fixed furniture items were removed, and loft beds were installed to allow more flexibility in adjusting bed height. Also added were a computer room, a small dining area with a kitchen, a library/seminar room, and a small lounge. A new, faster elevator was also installed. Schill said the building is now completely accessible.

Steve Kelly, Harris Hall renovation project manager in Campus Planning and Construction, said the architectural firm VMDO of Virginia emphasized the preservation of Shutze's original architectural features in their renovation design. The Harris Hall Parlor includes many of those features, such as high ceilings, a large fireplace, arched doorways and hardwood floors. The floor of the building's foyer was covered in marble from Spain. Most of the remainder of the building, including student rooms, was carpeted. Sinks were installed in rooms that didn't already have them.

Kelly said one of the most difficult tasks for Gay Construction Co., the general contractor, was installing a new heating and cooling system that allows temperature control via thermostats in individual student rooms. He said the variance in width and distance of the building's floor beams made the project more difficult than anticipated.

The renovation was begun just after Commencement last spring. Students who lived in the Smith-Thomas-Hopkins Complex moved into Harris at the beginning of this semester to allow a renovation project on the Complex to begin.

--Dan Treadaway