flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
catfish1 - bottom
Currently Reading

2011 Reconstruction Award Profile: Seegers Student Union at Muhlenberg College

2011 Reconstruction Award Profile: Seegers Student Union at Muhlenberg College

Seegers Student Union at Muhlenberg College has been reconstructed to serve as the core of social life on campus.


By By Tim Gregorski, Senior Editor | May 31, 2012
In the spring of 2009, Muhlenberg College embarked on an expansion and renovatio
In the spring of 2009, Muhlenberg College embarked on an expansion and renovation to Seegers Student Union. The college develope

At many colleges and universities, the student union serves as the focal point of campus activity. These days, campus planners are increasingly designing student unions as a multifunctional home to fuse student life and recreational activities under one roof.

Two years ago, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa., embarked on a bold expansion and renovation project to dramatically upgrade the outdated Seegers Student Union.

The building was originally constructed in 1960 when enrollment just topped a thousand students. Despite previous expansions and renovations, the 66,000-sf student union was too tired, worn, and undersized to serve as a modern-day campus center for more recent needs of up to 3,300 guests per day.

Ultimately, college officials decided to transform the Seegers Student Union into a contemporary student dining and commons facility to meet the college’s growing, diverse needs.

PROJECT SUMMARY
Seegers Student Union, Muhlenberg College
Allentown, Pa.

Building Team
Submitting firm: Bruner/Cott & Associates
Owner/developer: Muhlenberg College
Structural engineer: Barry Isett & Associates
Mechanical engineer: Snyder Hoffman Associated Inc.
General contractor: Alvin H. Butz Inc.

General Information
Size: 70,000 sf
Construction cost: $20 million
Construction period: August 2008 to August 2010

Putting The Emphasis on Community Ideals

The Muhlenberg campus is located along a high ridge with a view of the Lehigh Valley. The architectural vocabulary reflects both English and German design traditions.

The 30,000-sf expansion and reconstruction focused on centralizing the Student Life and Student Organization offices, expanding the informal social space, and, most importantly, developing a 600-seat dining facility that could support the strong sense of community within the college.

In an effort to influence design criteria and create a sense of ownership with the Muhlenberg campus population, the Building Team relied on direct and indirect feedback with students, staff, and faculty. “We conducted a number of focus groups and hung a series of comment boards on which students wrote their suggestions, comments, and wishes for the Seegers Student Union,” says Dana Kelly, marketing director with design firm Bruner/Cott & Associates, Cambridge, Mass. “There was a lot of emphasis on the desire to ‘create a living room on campus’ that would serve as a neutral ground for all constituencies.” This factor influenced the social aspects of the design.

Senior staff members from the college served as the Steering Committee and helped clarify the project’s goals. “From an admissions perspective, it was important that the institution respond more deeply to the observances of Jewish students who make up one-third of the student body,” says Glenn Gerchman, director of Seegers Student Union. Maintaining a “strong sense of community” was also crucial. “That’s a characteristic recognized by nearly everyone who walks down Muhlenberg’s academic row,” he says.

Because the Seegers Student Union abuts the principal east-west pathway on the west end of the main quad, students, staff, and faculty were able to track construction progress. Not letting an educational opportunity pass, the Building Team created a Progress Plaza near the construction site where information about the project and its progress was continuously posted, according to Kelly.

Developing The Focal Point on Campus

The Building Team was charged with designing a facility that met a wide range of student dietary requirements and restrictions. One is the Noshery, a new kosher station that has two separate kitchens—one for meat preparation, one for dairy prep. “We believe this is the first fully integrated kosher station on a college campus,” says Kelly. “Integrated meaning that it is not segregated from the other stations like other kosher stations.”

The new food gallery also brings the kitchen out in the open. Food is prepared in a display-cooking format in front of the students, which brings food to students faster while reducing waste and labor cost.

“The response to this format has been tremendous,” says Gerchman. “The meal plan counts are up, and the students have responded favorably all around.”

The reconstructed 600-seat dining room has become a hearthstone visible from the surrounding campus. It can also host a wide variety of campus events. The Light Lounge serves as an active living room, while an outdoor terrace overlooking Brown Mall rounds out the amenities of the structure.

Designed for LEED Gold guidelines but not LEED-certified, the Seegers Student Union incorporates multiple sustainable measures: low-VOC paints and adhesives, recycled tile and carpet, renewable lumber and millwork, a spray-foam insulated building envelope, and integral air and vapor barriers.

 “The new Seegers Student Union now completes a new quadrangle on the campus, providing students with an important connection to the outdoors,” says Kelly.

Seegers Student Union defines a new campus space for Muhlenberg College that reinforces the unified structure of the campus. The building balances the institutional ambitions of the college with a desire to be aesthetically and socially innovative. +

Delivery method: Design-bid-build

Related Stories

75 Top Building Products | Apr 22, 2024

Enter today! BD+C's 75 Top Building Products for 2024

BD+C editors are now accepting submissions for the annual 75 Top Building Products awards. The winners will be featured in the November/December 2024 issue of Building Design+Construction. 

Laboratories | Apr 22, 2024

Why lab designers should aim to ‘speak the language’ of scientists

Learning more about the scientific work being done in the lab gives designers of those spaces an edge, according to Adrian Walters, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Principal and Director of SMMA's Science & Technology team.

Resiliency | Apr 22, 2024

Controversy erupts in Florida over how homes are being rebuilt after Hurricane Ian

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently sent a letter to officials in Lee County, Florida alleging that hundreds of homes were rebuilt in violation of the agency’s rules following Hurricane Ian. The letter provoked a sharp backlash as homeowners struggle to rebuild following the devastating 2022 storm that destroyed a large swath of the county.

Mass Timber | Apr 22, 2024

British Columbia changing building code to allow mass timber structures of up to 18 stories

The Canadian Province of British Columbia is updating its building code to expand the use of mass timber in building construction. The code will allow for encapsulated mass-timber construction (EMTC) buildings as tall as 18 stories for residential and office buildings, an increase from the previous 12-story limit. 

Standards | Apr 22, 2024

Design guide offers details on rain loads and ponding on roofs

The American Institute of Steel Construction and the Steel Joist Institute recently released a comprehensive roof design guide addressing rain loads and ponding. Design Guide 40, Rain Loads and Ponding provides guidance for designing roof systems to avoid or resist water accumulation and any resulting instability.

Building Materials | Apr 22, 2024

Tacoma, Wash., investigating policy to reuse and recycle building materials

Tacoma, Wash., recently initiated a study to find ways to increase building material reuse through deconstruction and salvage. The city council unanimously voted to direct the city manager to investigate deconstruction options and estimate costs. 

Student Housing | Apr 19, 2024

Cal State Long Beach student housing project will add 424 beds

A new $115 million project recently broke ground at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) that will add housing for 424 students at below-market rates. The 108,000 sf La Playa Residence Hall, funded by the State of California’s Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program, will consist of three five-story structures connected by bridges.

Construction Costs | Apr 18, 2024

New download: BD+C's April 2024 Market Intelligence Report

Building Design+Construction's monthly Market Intelligence Report offers a snapshot of the health of the U.S. building construction industry, including the commercial, multifamily, institutional, and industrial building sectors. This report tracks the latest metrics related to construction spending, demand for design services, contractor backlogs, and material price trends.

MFPRO+ New Projects | Apr 16, 2024

Marvel-designed Gowanus Green will offer 955 affordable rental units in Brooklyn

The community consists of approximately 955 units of 100% affordable housing, 28,000 sf of neighborhood service retail and community space, a site for a new public school, and a new 1.5-acre public park.

Construction Costs | Apr 16, 2024

How the new prevailing wage calculation will impact construction labor costs

Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, two pivotal changes in federal construction labor dynamics are likely to exacerbate increasing construction labor costs, according to Gordian's Samuel Giffin.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category




halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021