Claremont McKenna Dedicates Kravis Center

On Oct. 21 Claremont McKenna (CMC) celebrated the opening of the Kravis Center, the new building located on the corner of Columbia Avenue and Eighth Street. The ceremony brought students, faculty, and staff together in recognition of the award-winning structure. However, the center did not come about without a few bumps in the road. In September, the college experienced flooding in the LEED-Gold Standard building, causing significant damage to an area of the building.

Nonetheless, the recent opening ceremony began with tours of the new building and institute open houses for students, faculty, and visitors. A special convocation on Parents’ Field followed the tours and featured guest speakers British historian Niall Ferguson and Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School William Ziegler. Finally, at the ribbon cutting portion of the ceremony, each person had the opportunity to cut off a piece of the ribbon to take home in commemoration of the building.

CMC built the new center in order to expand its research and office space that the college previously lacked. The building now houses seven institutes and provides classrooms, faculty offices, and administration offices. There are also several spaces throughout the building for students to study and meet.

As part of the LEED Gold Standard checklist, the building uses radiant panel chill beams for heating and cooling. A flood occurred recently because of a problem with this chilling system in the Writing Center area of the building.

“In one location of the building there’s a hose coupling connection that has failed for a third-time,” said Matthew Bibbens, CMC’s Vice President of Administration and Planning.

The failure in that location caused significant damage to the Writing Center area of the building. The college had to install new carpeting and furniture because of the water damage from the rupture of the pipes last month. The Writing Center staff has since moved back in after the contractors fixed the pipe rupture in the system; however, the college has not yet found the reason as to why those specific hose coupling connections failed.

“We’re actively working with our consultants and contractor and experts to identify what exactly is causing that failure,” Bibbens said.

To the administration’s relief, the problem with the heating and cooling system appears to be isolated and rather an anomaly in the use of those hoses.

Bibbens said, “It doesn’t appear in any way to be systemic across the building as a whole.”

The reflecting pool area around the Living Room, the glass room in the outside central area, also had water-related problems. The architect, Rafael Viñoly, intended for the room to be surrounded by a pool of water. However, technical difficulties with the waterproofing and the drains in the pool area did not permit the college to complete the intended design. Instead, the college has decided to temporarily install a garden area around the Living Room until next summer because fixing it would require a lot of noisy work.

“We don’t want to disrupt classes and faculty members who have offices there so we’ll take care of that next summer,” said Robin Aspinall, Vice President for Business and Administration and Treasurer of CMC.

Aside from the water-related problems the Kravis Center experienced, the building has proven to be very successful for the college. The college is in the process of receiving LEED Gold Standard accreditation to which it catered in the design process. The standard requires that the structure have top of the line environmentally efficient features that promote water and energy efficiency. Some of the LEED-friendly features include green and white roofs, glass windows to take advantage of daylight, storm water containment, and water efficient landscaping.

The administration pushed for the environmental ranking in order to not only reduce its impact on the environment, but also to reduce their energy costs in the future.

“All of these things made sense to do from a financial perspective. It’s in our interest to put a system in that—even though it may be a higher initial investment—gives a better long-term performance,” said Frank Perri, the Director of Construction at CMC.

The Kravis Center also won the award for Best Higher Education Project in the McGraw Hill Construction Engineering News-Record (California division), which includes participants from Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, and Oregon. The publication reviews new architecture in the region and gives awards in several categories including Best Healthcare Project and Best Green Building.

“In the 34 categories, we also won the Best Overall Project,” Perri said, something that the college is very proud of.

The Living Room has also garnered a lot of attention for the new center. The square glass “Living Room” in the middle of the center represents the college’s intent to create a communal space for the building since it has no lobby.

“It’s a public space where students, faculty, visitors can gather [or] hang out in between classes,” Bibbens said.

The glass room also took the building’s look to the next level and added a “public art” piece to the campus. The administrators wished to add a more contemporary and aesthetically pleasing look to the college.

“[It is] almost a piece of art in itself [and] our campus really lacks something like that,” Bibbens said.

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