Traditional dorm beckons Davenport students

May 18, 2009
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The new four-floor dormitory rising at Davenport University’s campus in Caledonia Township is a bit of a puzzle.

The building was snapped together with pre-built walls, a cost-saving measure that is quickly becoming the standard for college dorm construction, said Norm Noordeloos, senior vice president at Rockford Construction and principal in charge of the project. Ann Zimmer is the project manager and Jeff Brakefield is the foreman.

“It’s a panelized building,” Noordeloos explained. “The walls come in sections. It’s called assembly construction. It’s basically like a set of Tinker Toys. The building went up very, very quickly.”

Advantages are the speed and efficiency with which the project can be done, and that saves money, he said.

“The panels are made off-site and delivered to the job site. The windows already are cut in. It’s something that was perfected in the hotel industry, and student housing now has caught on. Most of student housing is panelized,” Noordeloos said. “It’s more upfront, but you pick it up in labor.”

Even so, the project was employing 70 to 80 subcontractors, he added. The panels came from local firm Standard Lumber, which will help to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design criteria regarding procurement of materials within 500 miles of the job site.

The $17 million, 120,765-square-foot building is Davenport’s third and largest dorm at the main campus near M-6, and, when it opens this fall, it will be the only one with a food service component. A 12,000-square-foot dining hall will serve students from all three dorms, as well as faculty. It will accommodate 300 students in units of four bedrooms and two bathrooms to meet the expectations of students today, who want their own bedrooms.

“We have a growing number of traditional students who want to live on campus,” Davenport’s Interim President Michael Volk said. “This is significantly different from what we originally planned. We always thought we would need a third residence hall. In the original plan, we were going to build a more apartment-style residence.”

However, the dining hall will augment the minimal food options now available on the campus, which is located a drive away from any restaurants.

“This will be a more traditional upscale residence hall with suites,” Volk said.

Davenport was still seeking, through requests for proposals, a company to run the dorm’s food service component.

Noordeloos said the building, designed by Integrated Architecture, will have a brick exterior to blend with others at the campus.

Volk said about 200 students already have signed up for the new dorm, which is expected to open in August. The new residents will join about 225 already filling dorms there. About 2,200 students attend classes in Caledonia, Volk added.

He said Davenport sold bonds to pay for the project.

“I think we were able to get in at the right time,” Volk said of the bond market, which had been extremely sluggish late last year and into this year. “Davenport is a financially solid organization. That helped us, as well. Truthfully, when we issued bonds, it went very, very well. It was a matter of timing.”

He said the next construction at the Caledonia campus is likely to be additional academic space, but did not pinpoint a timeline. The hall now under construction was designed to be easily expanded to house a total of 700 students in the future.

Earlier this year, Davenport named a dorm that was opened in 2006 after Fred and Lena Meijer, in recognition of their gift of 16 acres to add to the campus’s 53 acres. The other dorm is named for Peter C. and Pat Cook. The campus is named after Wilbur Lettinga, and includes an academic building with a library and a student center with a field house, which opened last fall.

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