Berkshire’s New Environmentally-Friendly Student Center to Start Construction Soon

    The Rovensky Student Center is the hub of student life at Berkshire, but it won’t be for the 2023-2024 school year.

    Official construction at the Rovensky Student Center begins the last week of June 2023 and is projected to be completed in late fall or early winter of 2024 (approximately, one full calendar year and a quarter later). Surveying began in January 2023, and the building will be offline beginning June 20, 2023. During construction, the new kitchen, servery, and dining hall will move to the east rink of the Jackman L. Stewart Athletic Center. The bookstore, Shawn’s, and office spaces will also relocate to the Jack during this time period.

    Everything serving students in their temporary space will be brand new. Mr. Bjurlin, Dean of Students, points out that the temporarily relocated facilities at the Jack will be “bigger, newer, and nicer” than the current ones. According to Mr. Bjurlin, the renovations to the student center are necessary because “we have outgrown the space, our community needs it, and the furniture and equipment serving the space needs to be improved.” Mr. Bjurlin notes that the two-tiered configuration at the current student center is challenging as shipments to the dining hall are received on one level while food is prepared and served on another level.

    Once completed, the new student center will have “more space, more bathrooms,

more rooms, more food, all serving the student experience,” according to Mr. Bjurlin. The renovated building will house the kitchen and the dining commons as well as the post office, bookstore, music center, gathering space, snack bar, club space, Student Life offices, radio station, and more. In the new space, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cafe will likely be “open and accessible from 7 am – 10 pm daily,” says Mr. Bjurlin.

    The adjacent outdoor gathering space that currently features a large lawn, benches and a barbecue pit will continue to be vital. It will be landscaped and populated with chairs and tables. The outdoor space will also continue to feature the fire pit.

    The construction of the student center will add 17,000-square-feet to the existing 31,000-square-feet and the building’s roof; windows; and mechanical, electrical, and fire protection systems will all be replaced. In addition, there will be new furniture (firm seating, soft seating, TVs, games, and other student center items), fixtures, and equipment. When completed, the new building will be a “brand new home for our students to study, interact, engage, and create in the space,” says Mr. Bjurlin.

Recently, Berkshire made the decision to make the project environmentally friendly by adding a sustainable geothermal energy system. That system will consist of 55 wells that are each 500 feet deep. The wells will be below grade in the area of the current fire pit and benches on the east side of the student center. Director of Facilities Management, Tim Fulco, says that “it’s an exciting project from an energy consumption standpoint in that we’re going to utilize a ground source heat pump system that will eliminate fossil fuel usage.” Traditionally, Berkshire has used #2 fuel oil to heat the student center.

    Mr. Fulco notes that the wells “will act as a heat exchanger.” He explains that, “in the winter, the water that flows out to the wells gets warmed up and then runs through a heat exchanger which increases the temperature up to what is needed throughout the building. In the summer, the process is just the opposite. The warm water that exits the building runs through the well field and its temperature gets cooled down before heading back into the building.” Mr. Mulder points out that “this is a great, mission-driven, and environmentally-responsible decision for Berkshire and one we should be really proud of.”

    The architects for the project are Voith and Mactavish, from Philadelphia, PA. The firm was selected after three firms made proposals to Berkshire leadership. Mr. Bjurlin said that Voith and Mactavish are bringing “their successful, well-received designs to the process” but that “student voices have been involved in most steps of the process” in order “to confirm the usefulness of certain design aspects.”

    Once the new student center is complete, Berkshire plans to continue constructing new facilities and renovate others, but construction for those buildings is not scheduled at this time.