Allen Hall renovation to bring advanced – and very green – technology to SOJC

Though still months away from completion, two things are certain about the University of Oregon’s Allen Hall — traditionally the home of the School for Journalism and Communication — that will come out of the renovation project: It’ll be green, and it’ll be high-tech.

The high technology level goes hand-in-hand with the green efforts, according to Chad Nielson, project manager for Lease Crutcher Lewis, the company in charge of the renovation.

Magnets installed in windows, tripped when the window is opened or closed, tell the building’s climate control whether or not heat is needed. Ambient light sensors turn overhead lights on and off depending on how much natural light is present. Tech closets can be found on each floor, connecting different building systems serving as technological nerve centers for the hall. Water pipes run through walls, ceilings, heaters and passive cooling units, providing cheaper temperature control — and that isn’t even touching the technology that the SOJC will be using.

“The takeaway from sustainability is that you have to safeguard buildings because people won’t be sustainable on their own,” Nielson said. His team has certainly taken that to heart.

Tech improvements to be used by the SOJC has been detailed before in a variety of forms, including SOJC Dean Tim Gleason’s public meetings with students about the renovation project. Highlights include an open-air computer lab called the “digital commons,” greater integration of multimedia-capable technology in individual classrooms and an elaborate, state-of-the-art distance-learning setup.

From the perspective of Andre Chinn, instructional technology coordinator for the SOJC, the latter upgrade is perhaps the most significant.

“People are growing increasingly comfortable with (distance learning),” Chinn said. With the increasingly digital nature of journalism and the growing SOJC presence in places like Portland, courtesy of the Turnbull Center, it seemed wise to jump on the opportunity.

“A big part of the idea was to bring the Portland events … down to Eugene,” he continued, “and bring the Eugene events — things really unique to Eugene — up to Portland.”

Another addition to the building is a data center, to be located in the basement. It was added to the plans by former UO Chief Information Officer Donald Harris as a non-SOJC affiliated (financially or otherwise) project piggybacking on the renovation, according to Chinn. The idea is that it will be used as a central data center for many UO departments that previously lacked one, making ad hoc server racks stuffed under desks and in closets ideally a thing of the past.

Chinn also said there were other technological elements of the new building that might very well go past the cutting edge to the bleeding edge of technology, but he added that the SOJC wasn’t ready to reveal details.

Beyond creating a more technologically advanced and eco-friendly building, the renovation is essential to the image the SOJC is trying to create for itself as well, according to SOJC spokesperson Andrea Kowalski. Additionally, she said, forward thinking like that represents the forward-thinking approach to journalism the SOJC is in the process of adopting. The building is as symbolic as it is practical.

“It’s to look to the future of journalism, rather than just settling for the building we had,” Kowalski said.


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Keegan Clements-Housser

Keegan Clements-Housser