STCC celebrates grand opening of Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons
Retired STCC President Ira H. Rubenzahl cuts the ceremonial ribbon for the opening of the Student Learning Commons that bears his name (photo by Chris Marion). He stands with, from left to right, STCC student trustee Karolyn M. Burgos-Toribio, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, STCC Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Johnson, STCC President John B. Cook, State Rep. Bud L. Williams and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – In a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Springfield Technical Community College on Dec. 11 celebrated the opening of the $50 million Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons, a renovated historic building that will become a vibrant one-stop hub for student services and activities.
The event drew dignitaries including Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker who joined other state and local officials as well as current and past STCC leaders and students.
The more than 100,000-square-foot building – built in the 19th century as a storehouse for supplies – has been revitalized into an energy-efficient facility and center of student life at STCC. The Learning Commons has a modern and inviting interior that maintains the historic character of the structure, which has been known as Building 19.
President John B. Cook said the renovation project, which broke ground two years ago, will transform the student experience at STCC by putting key services under one roof.
“This unique and historic building preserves the character of the original structure and will serve our students for many years to come,” Cook said. “By organizing offices and student services together, we remove barriers, and usher in a new approach to student success. We are very excited about this change, and there is no doubt that the Learning Commons will have a positive impact on every student enrolled at STCC.”
Christopher Johnson, chair of the STCC Board of Trustees, said, “This day marks a significant milestone in STCC’s history. After over a decade of hard work by college staff, we are proud to introduce our students to the Learning Commons, where they now have easy access to vital services and resources.”
Massachusetts Education Secretary James Peyser said, “This new student center will bring critical resources and services under one roof, increasing students’ ability to easily access everything from tutorial to health services, which in turn should improve graduation rates. The Baker-Polito Administration is very pleased we were able to authorize the funds for the renovation of this extremely important historic building that will improve the overall educational experience for STCC students.”
While he was unable to attend the event, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal called the Learning Commons a “great investment.”
“Congratulations to Springfield Technical Community College for this great investment in their campus, and consequently, in their students and faculty,” Neal said. “Community colleges are imperative in today’s economy because they produce graduates who are ready on day one to help fill the jobs gap in technical fields. With the re-opening of Building 19, students will have access to state-of-the-art tools, resources, and study facilities to ensure continued success.”
This unique and historic building preserves the character of the original structure and will serve our students for many years to come. By organizing offices and student services together, we remove barriers, and usher in a new approach to student success.Dr. John B. Cook, STCC President
The Learning Commons will include administrative offices, student services, a student common with activity areas, the library, the campus bookstore, tutoring and social spaces, and health center, and much more. The new facility is named after former STCC President Ira H. Rubenzahl, who collaborated with the Commonwealth on his vision for the renovation of Building 19 into a modern, energy efficient Learning Commons. He retired in 2016.
The plan to renovate Building 19 commenced after a space needs assessment found that STCC is sorely lacking in student-focused spaces. Critical student resources and services were scattered throughout campus.
The opening of the Learning Commons will make it easier for students to navigate the campus, said Carol Gladstone, commissioner of the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM).
“This is a completely unique building in the Community College system,” Gladstone said. “The Learning Commons will provide a central location for all student administrative services, improving access to various offices and services and eliminating the well-known STCC ‘Shuffle.’”
The 764-foot-long, 55-foot-wide structure was constructed between 1847 and 1863 and originally used to store gun-barrel stocks for the Springfield Armory, which was closed by Congress in 1968 and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Building 19 is part of the National Register of Historic Places.
If the building were turned on its side, it would exceed the height of the 749-foot-tall Prudential Tower in Boston.
In most locations, existing masonry, structure and ceilings remain exposed. New landscaping provides an outdoor gathering space for staff and students, increases pedestrian safety and connects Building 19 with Buildings 17, 13 and 2.
The quality of work that went into the renovation did not go unnoticed. The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) honored STCC and Ann Beha Architects of Boston with the “Excellence in Planning for a District or Campus Component” award in 2017 for their efforts.
According to SCUP, “the project is a model for historic preservation and sustainability, reinvigorating a unique and underutilized building on the landmark campus.”
The project was funded through the Commonwealth’s capital plan, with $3 million contributed from STCC.
“Our administration was pleased to support funding for the Ira H. Rubenzahl Student Learning Commons through the Commonwealth’s capital plan,” Baker said. “We look forward to the important impact it will have on the students, staff and faculty of STCC.”
Ann Beha Architects designed the Student Learning Commons. Consigli Construction Co., Inc. is the firm in charge of the project.
Learning Commons exceeds state energy standards
In an effort to reduce energy costs and reduce emissions by state facilities, Massachusetts’ LEED Plus standard requires all state buildings larger than 20,000 square feet to achieve LEED certification as well as meet energy performance that is 20 percent better than the existing Massachusetts energy code. LEED certification, which stands for
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification program for new building projects.
Building 19 will achieve the Silver level of LEED certification and is currently pushing into the Gold criteria numbers. A final LEED certification level will be determined at a later date.
The environmental implications of the site have been carefully considered:
- No potable water is being used to irrigate the landscaping.
- All roof rainwater runoff from the building will be directed through downspouts and channeled into granite runnels along the bottom of the building.
- The architectural team created a six-foot-deep rain garden that extends along the length of the south façade to divert runoff from the combined storm and sewer drainage system.
- Rainwater will be collected into adjacent rain gardens and filtered naturally by plantings and percolate into the soil, recharging groundwater.
- All parking lot rainwater runoff will be captured by rain gardens located in the parking islands.
- Runoff will be infiltrated by the rain garden and used to replenish groundwater supplies. All selected rain garden plants are native and tolerate both waterlogging and drought.
- Thirty-three percent of the site contains vegetated space.
The interior of the building also includes a number of sustainability features:
- The project has achieved a 30 percent water-use reduction through the selection of efficient water fixtures.
- The project has carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors in all densely occupied spaces to ensure that the ventilation system maintains the design requirements. The monitors have an alert to indicate when the CO2 levels get too high.
- The building is equipped with new heating, cooling and lighting controls.
Custodial staff will use environmentally friendly cleaning products and practices to maintain a healthy, safe and clean environment for building users and cleaning staff. In addition, materials with low volatile organic compounds were selected to reduce the quantity of indoor air contaminants that are potentially irritating or harmful to people inside the building.
At least 50 percent of the new wood in the building is Forest Stewardship Council certified, which ensure that the wood products have come from third-party-certified forests that comply with the council’s principles and criteria.
Building 19 has LED lighting, occupancy sensors and daylight sensors which help to reduce the amount of energy used for lighting.
About Springfield Technical Community College
Founded in 1967 and located on 35 acres of the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, STCC is a major resource for the economic vitality of Western Massachusetts. As the only technical community college in Massachusetts, STCC, a designated Hispanic Serving Institution and an Achieving the Dream Leader College, offers a variety of career programs unequalled in the state. STCC’s highly regarded transfer programs in business, engineering, liberal arts, science and technology continue to provide the most economical options for students pursuing a four-year degree. With an annual enrollment of more than 7,400 day, evening, weekend and online students, STCC is a vibrant campus rich in diversity.
For more information about STCC, visit www.stcc.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@S_T_C_C).
Jim Danko, email@example.com, (413) 755-4812