An online publication for the staff, faculty, students and friends of Community College of Philadelphia
Volume 18, Number 1
October 21, 2009

Green Building Projects Growing Faster, Better than Expected

The expansion projects at the College’s Main Campus and Northeast Regional Center (NERC) are now under construction. Both projects are expected to be completed at less than the approved budget.

The Northeast project is ahead of schedule, with construction on the new addition to the existing NERC scheduled to be completed approximately a year earlier than originally planned. In the coming months, some classroom shifting will be necessary to accommodate renovation work on the existing building. In addition, parking at the NERC will be more restricted.

At the Main Campus, construction on the new Pavilion building is on schedule and students, faculty and staff can expect some disruptions in accessing the bookstore, the West Building and the Gymnasium.

pavillion image
A view of the Pavilion that is being constructed between the College’s West Building and the Gymnasium.

Both the NERC and the Main Campus will experience some noise and changes in pedestrian patterns outside and inside the buildings during the construction.

Thomas Hawk, the College’s vice president for Planning and Finance, urges patience. “There will be small inconveniences, and people will need to be flexible over the next two years. But at the end, we will be in a much better place,” Hawk said.

The two buildings are expected to become the first higher education facilities in Philadelphia to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) structures. According to the Green Building Council, less than one percent of U.S. buildings are LEED-certified.

The $31 million NERC expansion project, which includes an approximately 50,000 square-foot addition, was originally scheduled for completion in 2011. It is now expected to be finished in May 2010. The renovation of the existing NERC building is expected to be completed by November 2010. “Even though the construction at the Northeast has been successfully accelerated, everything possible to not disrupt classes and student services is being done.” Hawk said. “There will never be a moment in time when we completely shut down the existing building.”

Parking also will be affected, as more of the NERC parking lot becomes part of the construction site and is required to safely accommodate the construction equipment. The field, soon to be converted to additional parking, is currently under construction to become the geothermal well field with more than 200 wells, supporting air conditioning and heating for the new and renovated buildings. More than 130 of the wells have been drilled so far. Upon completion of the drilling operations, the field will be made into parking for more than 200 vehicles.

“The city has allowed us to park in designated areas which are normally posted as no parking. As a result, the College has been immensely helped to deal with the temporary parking issues,” Hawk said.

The College originally planned for both projects to achieve a silver rating under LEED. However, the work at the NERC is going so well that the project goal has been raised to the next highest level, which is gold, said Gary Bixby, the College’s construction project manager. The College earned additional “green points” by carefully recycling the dirt that was excavated and using more environmentally friendly building materials and furnishings, Bixby said. “We are trying to build and buy green in every way we can,” Hawk said.

The $56 million Main Campus expansion includes a new 47,600 square-foot Pavilion between the Gym and the West Building that is expected to certify at a LEED silver rating. “The complexity of design and nature of the building’s space, along with the constraints of the project budget, prevent us from achieving gold-level certification.” Hawk said.

In addition to the Pavilion, other components of the Main Campus project include a new lobby for the Bonnell Building and renovations to 100,000 square feet of existing space in the Bonnell, Mint and West buildings. The under-budget bids received for some Main Campus contracts have made it possible to shift project funds in order to significantly upgrade the exterior landscaping, interior furnishings and, as an unexpected bonus, put a “green roof” atop the Bonnell building addition.

The College has created a Web site ( where it will post construction updates and other information, including photos of the work in progress and the architectural renderings for both projects. The Web site also will have advisories to help students and staff navigate the NERC and Main Campus during the construction.