LABOR OF LOVE
For alums who helped build ECU’s new student center, an extra special project
Tom Daniel has been working in construction for decades, but his latest project is by far the closest to his heart. Daniel, a ’92 and ’11 alumnus, is a senior project manager for the new Main Campus Student Center, a state-of-the-art building with enough bells and whistles that many are calling it the future “front door,” “gem” and “pride” of ECU.
Opening in January 2019, the 210,000-square-foot student center is double the size of Mendenhall, the current student center that was built in 1974. The new building is silver-level LEED certified with six dining options, a grand ballroom capable of seating 1,800 people, a jumbo outdoor movie screen and 12-foot-tall acrylic purple letters that spell out “Aarrgh!” And those are just a few of the features.
“This is 180 degrees from Mendenhall,” Daniel said. “I’m real proud of being a part of it.”
The new student center and adjoining 700-space parking deck is a joint venture between T.A. Loving and Barnhill Contracting companies, together employing approximately 60 ECU alumni, many of them construction management graduates.
Daniel was one of the first graduates of ECU’s construction management master’s program. His wife, Denise, also graduated from ECU and his son, Jonathan, is a current student.
“We’re constructing something that my son can immediately enjoy. I can’t even begin to put into words to how much it means to me,” Daniel said.
For project coordinator Jenny Sutton, the student center is her first foray into construction. Her daughter, Emily, graduates from ECU in May 2019.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better project to start on because Emily will get to use and enjoy it and so many others as well,” Sutton said. “For this being my first job in construction, I couldn’t have been placed with a better team. It’s going to be bittersweet when it’s over.”
Scott Andrews ’07, an assistant project manager, said the whole team is essentially Pirates. Andrews, a construction management major and former ECU baseball player, helps manage subcontractors working on the student center, mitigating any issues that arise in the field. He was born and raised in Greenville and grew up with a sense of pride in ECU.
“To be able to work on (the student center) is just a good feeling. Every project is very important but this one is sentimental as well,” he said. “This new building is above and beyond. You can socialize, study, get dinner. It’s going to be a very inviting place for students to go and it will be an asset for years to come.”
One of his favorite features of the building – aside from the numerous gathering spots for students – is the electrochromatic glass in the windows, which allow them to automatically tint according to the weather outside.
For senior mechanical designer and ’08 alumnus Chris Denton, it’s the radiant flooring. Warmth is supplied by hot-water coils underneath the floor to invisibly heat the room. Floor-level displacement ventilation also moves air more efficiently than it would from any overhead duct work.
“It’s a really complex building,” said Denton, whose job is to oversee mechanical, electrical, fire protection and plumbing design. “I hope students enjoy it and appreciate all the time and work that went into it. I think it will be the new gem of ECU.”
“There’s so many things you will not be able to see,” added intern Justin Spears. The junior construction management major said working for T.A. Loving has helped him in his classes and provided a slew of real-world construction experiences. It’s also given him a behind-the-scenes perspective of the building he and his fellow classmates will be walking around in next semester.
“It’s cool knowing how all this came together, and maybe being able to answer some people’s questions about it,” Spears said.
His favorite part of the building? The floor of the main ballroom, which will have an outline of the coast of North Carolina with all its the lighthouses and an X marking the spot for Greenville.
Or perhaps it’s an X marking the spot of ECU’s newest treasure.