For BYU, new construction is like ‘open-heart surgery’

Pres. Merrill J. Bateman of BYU compares current construction projects on the university campus to open-heart surgery.

After all, he explained, crews are busy digging a hole the size of the Marriott Center in the middle of the quad south of the school's administration building – the heart of the campus. To dig the hole, it will take the equivalent of one dump truck filled with dirt leaving the campus every five minutes for the next 204 days. The site, which by March 1999 will be an underground library expansion to the Harold B. Lee Library, is one of five major construction projects currently scarring BYU's landscape. (See article on library addition groundbreaking on page 3.)Other projects are under way on the Ernest L. Wilkinson Center, Carl F. Eyring Science Center and Howard W. Hunter Law Library at the J. Reuben Clark Law School. The new Wyview Park married-students housing is being constructed to replace existing mobile homes and crews are remodeling part of Helaman Halls dormitories.

Pres. Bateman of the Seventy, in a Church News interview, said while members of the faculty, staff and student body don't like the inconvenience caused by the projects, they are excited to be part of the university's continuing efforts to keep their facilities up-to-date.

"You don't realize how important a building is in terms of its role on campus until you can't use it," Pres. Bateman said. "The Wilkinson Center really is the hub of campus; with that torn up we are really limping along."

BYU architect Warren Jones said in the 17 years he has been working for the university, he has never seen so much construction work on campus. Although the university is always updating old facilities and building new ones – and many of the renovations and expansions are part the university's long-term plan – Brother Jones called the number of current construction projects on campus extraordinary.

The two library projects are being paid for entirely by donations. "The funds just became available coincidently

at the same time as the other projects were plannedT," Brother Jones, assistant director of planning, said. "We felt like it was better to go in and get it done and clean up the campus as soon as possible."

For now, he said, the construction has created some problems for students and faculty, who have to walk around blocked-off work areas. In fact, the fencing around the construction projects has isolated the Harris Fine Arts Center, north of the Wilkinson Center. "People have to walk all the way around, and it is very inconvenient for them," Brother Jones explained. "It does limit students. We realize that it is causing some problems."

He explained that work crews are trying to minimize the inconvenience caused by the projects. As much of the Wilkinson Center as possible has remained open, while crews work on other sections of the building. The food court has been relocated, and in good weather, food can be purchased at outdoor food carts.

Both Pres. Bateman and Brother Jones agree that construction work on a major college campus may never be completely finished. In the near future the university will have to make plans to provide better accommodations for the Humanities Department and will have to renovate the Smith Family Living Center, Brother Jones said. Some students, he added, may never see the campus completely put together.

But, he explained, when this current tide of work is completed, the finished product will be worth the trouble.


Summary of major construction projects at BYU

  • Howard W. Hunter Law Library

(Addition to J. Reuben Clark Law School).

Starting date: May 1995.

Completion date: November 1996.

Size: 60,000 square feet.

The library addition complements an existing 40,000-square-foot law school. Construction is ahead of schedule. The first, second and fourth floors were completed in time for classes in August.

  • Carl F. Eyring Science Center


Starting date: October 1995

Completion date: October 1997

Size: 167,000 square feet.

Completed in 1950, the original Eyring Science Center was due for either demolition or major remodeling. Its systems and design were inadequate but the building was sound. The remodeling involves a complete gutting of the interior and refurbishing work on the exterior.

  • Ernest L. Wilkinson Center

(Addition and remodel).

Starting date: November 1995.

Completion date: March 1998.

Size: 90,000 square feet (addition); 284,000 square feet (existing building).

The Wilkinson Center, completed in 1964, is the campus's student center. As student services have grown, space in the building has not been available, and the services had to be established in other campus buildings. The addition will bring all student services into one location.

  • Harold B. Lee Library

(Addition and remodel)

Starting date: September 1996.

Completion date: March 1999.

Size: 234,000 square feet.

Excavation for this underground addition is expected to remove 234,800 cubic yards of material. This is the largest excavation in BYU's history. The hole will generally be 40 feet deep but will extend to 50 and 60 feet in some places. The 440,000-square-foot main library has been in need of more space since 1990. Built in 1961, the library was not designed for computers. Renovation will bring it up to 21st century standards.

  • Wyview Park

(new construction)

Starting date: June 1996.

Completion date: August 1998.

Size: 426 two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Construction of these apartments for married students replaces 150 existing mobile homes.

In addition to these major projects, renovations are taking place in the Helaman Halls dormitory complex and are scheduled in the BYU Bookstore. Work on the bookstore, in the Wilkinson Center, will begin in January 1997 and should be completed in one year. Budge Hall, at Helaman Halls, was remodeled during 1995 and 1996. Hinckley Hall is now undergoing extensive renovations. Completion is expected in June 1997.