Last Friday, 20 lucky Yale students enjoyed a preview of what life in the new residential colleges might be like, thanks to a tour organized by the Yale chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
To organize the three-hour tour, ASME Yale, a student organization open to all prospective mechanical engineering majors, collaborated with BuroHappold, the engineering consulting firm in charge of the construction of Franklin and Murray Colleges. The tour kicked off with an introductory presentation by BuroHappold at a trailer on the construction site. BuroHappold representatives then led the students on a two-hour site walkthrough, during which they had the chance to talk to construction workers and learn about the various parts that go into such a large-scale construction project. The tour closed with a final question-and-answer session with BuroHappold and members of the firm’s recruiting team.
Students interviewed after the tour said it provided new insights into a project that has been a part of campus conversations for years. For Tasha Boyer ’19, the tour offered information that could factor into her housing decision for next year.
“I heard rumors that some of the colleges are going to be annexing, so I just wanted to see what a potential living situation would be,” Boyer said. “I think there really hasn’t been a lot of dialogue between students and the administration about what is going to be inside the new colleges.”
Boyer said the construction workers were able to provide details about the construction plan that were not readily available elsewhere. For instance, 90 percent of freshmen in the new colleges will live in doubles, while only 20 percent of upperclassmen will do so.
Franklin College will contain a two-floor dance studio, and a walkway called Prospect Walk is being built between the two colleges, according to students who toured the site. There will also be an underground tunnel connecting Franklin and Murray Colleges.
Boyer also said that according to BuroHappold, the combined capacity of the new colleges is 800 students, and that all rooms will be filled when the colleges open in fall 2017. In addition to the new students, Franklin and Murray Colleges will house annexed juniors and students who choose to transfer.
Students interviewed also commented on the amenities and facilities the new colleges will contain. On the tour, students were shown a new suite designed to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, in which all of the doors could be opened by pressing buttons.
According to George Iskander ’20, who also participated in the tour, Murray and Franklin Colleges are being built to last 150 years. He added that there are currently no plans to install a bell in Murray College’s tower, although the infrastructure for installing one is in place for the future, and that the bell tower will also accommodate classrooms and study spaces.
The buildings were also rated gold by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a certification program established by the U.S. Green Building Council to recognize and award environmentally friendly building projects. Cody said he was pleased to hear that the company had factored sustainability into its decisions when designing and planning the colleges.
BuroHappold is an international organization known for directing projects including the National 9/11 Memorial Museum Pavilion in New York City. The firm was also responsible for overseeing the construction of the current Yale School of Management building, Edward P. Evans Hall, which was completed in 2014.
ASME Yale publicized the tour by emailing a sign-up form to the mechanical engineering majors panlist, as well as by creating a Facebook event. However, the tour was open to all students, regardless of major. According to Berk Manav ’18, the president of ASME Yale, over 120 students had signed up within 48 hours of the form’s release, but only 20 could ultimately be chosen by lottery to attend the tour.
“I hoped to build awareness about some of the background work that is going on while building the new residential colleges,” Manav said. “We’re all observing together, as a university, how they’re becoming more and more established and well-developed, but we’re not really involved with how that’s happening. I thought it was a phenomenal opportunity for people to see the work that’s going into it from behind the scenes.”
The tour also doubled as a recruiting event for BuroHappold, and students interested in working for the firm were encouraged to bring resumes to the tour. However, many of the students were not affiliated with the engineering department and said that they merely signed up for the tour to get a glimpse of the new residential colleges.
Devin Cody ’17, an applied physics and electrical engineering double major, said he did not attend the tour with his job search in mind. For him, the tour was a chance to learn more about a project that was finally nearing completion, after several years of discussion and construction.
“I’d been hearing a lot about the colleges over the last four years and following their progress and how they’ve been developing,” Cody said. “I was disappointed that they were going to be finished after I was going to graduate, but I’m excited for all the students that are coming to Yale next year.”
Manav added that after seeing the high demand for this event, ASME Yale hopes to hold additional tours of the new colleges. However, he said, these future tours may be specifically aimed at engineering majors, because those students can benefit the most from learning about the technical aspects of the construction project.