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Heavener Hall construction faces complaints about sustainability

Heavener Hall trees
The future building site of Heavener Hall, an addition to the business college, located on the northeast side of campus near 13th Street and University Avenue. Construction of the new building will require the removal of 55 trees.

Right now, on the northeast corner of campus, an open expanse with a variety of trees acts as a green buffer between the Warrington College of Business Administration and the busy intersection of 13th Street and University Avenue.

In April, though, construction will begin on the newest part of the business college family, Heavener Hall.

Although planning for Heavener Hall has been in the works for several years, the process has engendered differences of opinion.

In order to make room and construct the building, which will attach to the existing Bryan Hall, approximately 55 trees throughout the area will need to be removed.

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Heavener Hall Project Manager Howie Ferguson, said in 2005, the building was designated at a different future building site, south of Hough Hall. After repeated reviews of the master plan, the design team decided to place it next to Bryan and Matherly.

“You don’t just plop a building down, especially here,” Ferguson said. “At the end of the day, I think once folks see the finished product. . . most folks will agree it’s a better corner.”

Ferguson said other smaller trees or those in poor health will also be removed, and 20 trees will be transplanted to other spots on campus.

Although trees will have to be removed to make space, he said the corner of the site facing out to the intersection is also part of an overall “beautification” project designed to make that entrance to campus more inviting.

UF Spokeswoman Janine Sikes said the mission for Heavener Hall construction is to centralize resources for undergraduate business majors.

“As it is now, undergraduate education in the college of business is scattered throughout the college, which pretty much is anchored on that corner of the University of Florida campus,” Sikes said. “Heavener Hall will allow us to focus on undergraduate education and put all the classrooms together — career counseling, advising, meeting space, all of that — all in one building.”

Hillary Marshall, an environmental science junior, works with the UF’s Office of Sustainability. Marshall said she enjoys that corner of campus because it has a winding pathway, open space and trees, creating a “nice little place” to walk and run.

After hearing about some of the plans for the development for Heavener Hall, she disagreed.

“In short, I don’t really like it,” Marshall said.

Ferguson said construction of Heavener Hall will comply with UF’s tree mitigation policy. Adopted in 2007, the policy requires replacing any removed tree with two new trees based on the size and type of removed tree.

Ferguson said it’s inevitable that some trees, including magnolias and various types of pine, oak and palm trees, will be removed in order to make room for Heavener Hall and planning for the surrounding area. Still, though, he said the development team plans to plant roughly the same amount back on the site.

More than half of the replacement trees will be oversized instead of waiting for the trees to grow.

“We’re pretty excited,” Ferguson said. “The whole team, the college, the architects, everybody. We think we’re improving the entire site.”

Lisa Jelks, editorial assistant for the college, said she is sad to see the corner of green space go. Despite an effort to make the project sustainable, she said there are other options that would make expansion of the college more environmentally friendly.

“I think they should be looking more at the parking lots and incorporating parking within the building plans,” Jelks said. “That is more sustainable to me rather than getting rid of all the green space that’s left on campus.”

Ferguson said planners of Heavener Hall aim for an excellence in sustainability rating from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, an internationally recognized green building program that certifies buildings for sustainability. Based on a point system, designers can submit building plans to earn points toward certification.

Ferguson said the team is trying to offset some misunderstanding as to why they are building on a green space and believes there is more to sustainability than just grass and trees.

“If you really think about it, it’s kind of like paper or plastic,” Ferguson said. “It’s pretty sustainable to create a home for business students to keep them on campus all day and make for a little bit better learning experience.”

Rachel Crosby wrote this story online.

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