‘Front Door’ Gets a Facelift
by Lauren Davidson
April 1, 2011
From left: Frank Laquitara, associate director for projects in facilities management, Ken Shultes ’89, associate vice president for campus operations and director of facilities management, and Greg Moyer ’06, associate director of admissions, worked to ensure the Waidner Admissions House renovation went smoothly and would qualify for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification.
A home’s front door is the first thing a visitor sees. If that door is dilapidated, the hinges rusty, the paint peeling, that visitor assumes the rest of the house—or the neighborhood—is in similar disrepair. Waidner Admissions House is the front door to Dickinson College—the first space on campus most prospective families see, and it wasn’t making a good first impression.
This summer, the admissions staff moved to the Waidner-Spahr Library so the house could be renovated, top to bottom. With everything from new paint and furniture to a new layout and a 4,500-square-foot addition, the building has renewed life and purpose.
“The necessity for this project has multiple layers,” says Stephanie Balmer, vice president for enrollment & communications and dean of admissions. “We had outgrown the building and were unsafely using the basement and attic. This was an opportunity to extend the space through the addition, enhance the curb appeal and energy efficiency and become Americans with Disabili-ties (ADA) Act compliant, which was a vital priority.
“When you walk in now, there is momentum, energy and movement,” she continues. “It’s a space where we can create a memorable impression of a Dickinson visit. And it’s a signal, if this is the only space [visitors] are able to see on campus, of the design and standards that we are committed to collegewide.”
Visitors enter the new space through a vestibule open 24/7, complete with a touch-screen kiosk that welcomes and informs prospective families even when the office is closed.
The vibe in the new main lobby is inviting, and the space is airy and awash with natural light. To your right, the Asbell Lounge features a flickering gas fireplace. To your left, the Shunk Lounge boasts a beverage center and flat-screen TV.
Frank Laquitara, associate director for projects in facilities management, and Greg Moyer ’06, associate director of admissions—the tireless twosome that teamed up to tackle the project logistics—are proud of that first impression.
“The light, the warmth and the energy—they have an immediate impact,” says Moyer, a former history major. “It still feels like a house, even like a home in some ways.”
“It’s open,” Laquitara emphasizes. “It all flows together. One of the best features is stepping onto those refinished wood floors.”
Those original floors continue through the lobby to what used to be the lower lounge, but now that the floor has been raised for ADA compliance, a new name is in the works. More seating, plus a 12-person conference room, lead into the gallery, a contemporary space that signals the start of the addition with slate floors and a two-story open concept. Off the gallery is the new information-session room, suitable for 50 guests, and office space for the operations staff.
The original double staircase still guides visitors to the second floor and the rest of the staff offices, plus several seating nooks and an eight-person conference room.
“Having the counselor offices all together is a good vibe,” Moyer says. “It’s so collaborative. Also, the spaces for meetings and interviews are fantastic.”
While the aesthetics of the new space are impressive, nothing in the building exists purely for appearance. Ken Shultes ’89, associate vice president for campus operations and director of facilities management, was charged with employing elements of construction and design that would earn the renovation Leadership in Energy & Environ-mental Design (LEED) gold certification.
The building has new thermal-pane, energy-efficient windows, and the interior lights are on motion sensors. The sleek, modern furniture is by Knoll, a local company with LEED-certified facilities, and the carpet tiles are made by Interface, which uses a high level of recycled content in its products.
Sensor-based sinks and a waterless urinal conserve thousands of gallons of water, permeable pavers on the back patio allow rainwater to infiltrate rather than run off, and a highly efficient heating and cooling system utilizes heat wheels to reclaim air rather than expel it.
“The college is distinguishing itself as a leader in sustainability education and the use of sustainable materials,” Balmer says. “We infused sustainable products and processes that signal Dickinson’s commitment to energy efficiency, and we’re being smart and strategic by investing in mid- and long-term savings measures.”
As the finishing touches were being completed in January, Moyer spoke of his satisfaction with the outcome.
“We’re grateful to the Dickinson community for allowing us to think differently about our space and to borrow other spaces temporarily,” Moyer says. “We’re grateful that they trust us to be good stewards of the new building, and we really are excited about it. It’s not our building; it’s the college’s building.”
View more photos of Waidner Admissions House.