Natural Resources Building Opens to Praise, Excitement After Renovations

Fernow Hall met with enthusiasm from students, professors...

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By Kevin Milian via the Cornell Daily Sun, 4/24/13

After two years without a building to call home, students and faculty in the department of natural resources heralded the reopening of Fernow Hall Tuesday after extensive renovations.

The renovated building has a rain garden to control stormwater runoff, a garden terrace for use by the faculty and staff and solar panels for renewable energy, according to the Cornell Sustainable Campus Initiatives.

Since construction began in May 2011, the NTRES department was scattered across campus, with administrative and faculty offices housed in nearby Bruckner Lab, graduate students conducting research in Rice Hall and undergraduate students taking courses in a variety of classrooms on the Agriculture Quad and as far as Bradfield and Riley-Robb Hall.

Prof. Paul Curtis, natural resources, said that Fernow’s closing resulted in a less than ideal setup for faculty.

“I was in Bruckner in the basement, in a small room with a small window that couldn’t open,” Curtis said. “It’s nice to have fresh air and [Fernow] is amazing. Bruckner was functional; we met our needs, but it’s much better in the new building.”

Samantha Dean ’12, a natural resources major, said that while Fernow was closed many of her required classes were held in one room in Warren Hall, which she described as “basically Satan's armpit because it has zero windows and the thermoregulation capabilities of a campfire.”

Julia Parrish ’14 bemoaned that Fernow had been closed for such an extended period of time.

“It’s sad [Fernow] was closed for most of my undergrad [years] because it is the place where all the natural resources majors could go to hang out and bond, and we never got that opportunity,” Parrish said. “I think having a place to congregate does a lot to increase enthusiasm and excitement for the major because putting everyone together creates synergistic excitement.”

However, Sarah Gould, the department of natural resource’s business administrator, said Fernow was an “old building that was in need of renovations to meet current needs for the department.” Gould said the newly renovated building would please students and faculty members.

“We had very nice space in Bruckner Hall, smaller, and not private, so it makes people a lot happier having their own building,” Gould said.

Gould explained that because Fernow Hall is a historic building — it was built in 1915 — there were certain restrictions in how it could be renovated. However, ultimately the necessary modern additions were able to be made, according to Gould.

“We only had one staircase and no elevator, but now we have an elevator and more stairs. [Also,] the old building didn’t have air conditioning,” Gould said.

The renovated building boasts 4 floors and two classrooms, a 25-person classroom and a 50-person classroom that is built as a modern extension to the historic building.

“The new classroom is a light-filled, glass walled building. It looks different from Fernow, to stand out as separate structure,” Gould said.

Funding for the renovation comes from the State University Construction Fund — funding from the state on capital projects — which is also funding renovations for Stocking, Warren and Rice Hall, according to Gould.

Fernow Hall is also in the process of acquiring Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification, a standard for environmentally friendly buildings. According to Gould, the building is looking for a Gold certification, meeting 82 of the 110 possible points for that level.

“During the demolition process, the waste was diverted from landfill, and so it was used in other ways. The materials used are sourced locally in the region. All the wood trim was taken out, refinished and put back. The systems in the building are also green, having an efficient heating and cooling system,” Gould said.

Dean said she looks forward to returning to Cornell and seeing the improvements in Fernow.

“As much as I loved the old Fernow — moose head and all — I'm happy that the new Fernow [Hall] will better fit in with the sustainable atmosphere that surrounds everyone in the department,” Dean said.

Faculty and staff are currently in the process of moving their offices back to Fernow Hall, according to Gould.

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