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Sense of Place


Thompson Hall at the University of New Hampshire
University Business, Mar 2007

Those familiar with the University of New Hampshire often hear its name and first think of Thompson Hall. UNH's original building, circa 1892, stands out on campus and appears everywhere from on letterheads to online. It's listed on the national historic registry, too.


FUNCTION: Today, the 37,000-square-foot building holds administrative offices, including the president's office.

CHALLENGES: With only minor renovations and maintenance work over the years, Thompson Hall was showing its age. From inside, "you could definitely tell what the weather was like outside," says Brenda H. Whitmore, a project manager in the Facilities Design and Construction department. The original windows were operational but single-pane and leaky. The arch window in the president's office was shifting. Steel was holding some exterior joints and bricks in place, as the building was starting to creep. Maintenance requests were tough to keep up with. Yet a complete restoration of an administrative building is tough to justify. And with more than 100 staff there and limited swing space on campus, Thompson occupants would have to stay put during such a project.

SOLUTIONS: Leaders saved for more than five years, drawing from UNH's overall repair and renovation fund until money was available. Keeping the building open and occupied was the biggest challenge, notes Stuart Meurer, a project executive with Shawmut Design and Construction. "We had to work very closely with school administrators to minimize staff and student disruption." Temporary portable air conditioning units and additional power were needed, and engineering controls monitored the air constantly to ensure safety, Whitmore says. As the new roof and windows were installed and other repairs made outside, the building was wrapped in scaffolding and green netting. Group meetings and a newsletter helped keep everyone informed.

Pieces of the slate roof were replicated at a Canadian mine and turret bricks by a North Carolina manufacturer.

Architects hired a stained glass consultant for windows in the main stairwell. "People used to hurry to use the elevator, but now people are walking the stairs," Whitmore says. And around campus, drivers are going out of their way to pass Thompson Hall. "It's just breathtaking. It's stunning," she says.

PROJECT COST: $4.7 million ($5.3 million was projected to account for unknown factors)

TIMELINE: Planning began in 1995; constructed started in March 2006 and was completed in November 2006 (ahead of schedule)

PROJECT TEAM: Goody Clancy served as design architects; Shawmut Design and Construction served as construction manager (both of Boston) -M.E.