Samford Begins Vast Program of Infrastructure Improvement

It has been six decades since Samford University relocated to its Homewood site from East Lake. While the campus continues to be noted for its architectural beauty, some of its 2.5 million square feet of buildings are almost 60 years old, with attendant problems of age.

And, some campus buildings constructed much later lack important energy, water and cost-saving efficiencies. In light of this, Samford has undertaken a comprehensive plan to address infrastructure needs for the entire campus, increase energy efficiency, practice campus-wide conservation, and refresh and renew every facility. The infrastructure plan supports a larger updated campus master plan announced during the fall and is expected to generate more than $1.65 million in savings annually.

The Goal of Heightened Conservation

“The goal of heightened conservation is built within our stated core values [‘stewardship of all resources’] and our strategic plan,” noted President Andrew Westmoreland in a recent message to the campus. The infrastructure improvement program represents a $31 million effort approved by Samford’s board of trustees to implement conservation projects in virtually every area of the campus over the next 24 months.

Westmoreland noted that capital funds for the improvements will come through a contract with Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI), a global leader in the manufacture and promotion of energy efficiency technologies. “The expense of the projects will be provided through JCI, and those funds will be repaid through the energy savings we will achieve over the JCI contract term,” Westmoreland explained. “In the process, we will provide a cleaner, safer environment, reduce energy expenses, reduce our carbon output and accomplish considerable improvements to many of our facilities.” The plan is structured so that there will be no diversion of resources away from other Samford operations or programs, nor will there be a negative impact on tuition and fees paid by Samford students, he noted.

The plan includes the following:

  • A new campus chilled water plant to improve reliability, enhance comfort and increase capacity, improving energy efficiency by 50 percent while increasing cooling capacity by 22 percent.
  • A rainwater harvesting system at Sherman Circle to recapture and filter storm water that can be used for irrigation, as well as wells to provide irrigation for intramural fields and the Track and Soccer Stadium.
  • Installing high-quality operable windows that drive comfort, reduce maintenance and improve campus safety while preserving the design integrity of the campus Georgian Colonial aesthetic.
  • Introducing modernized building automation systems to reduce energy consumption and identify maintenance needs before they become a problem.
  • Extensive LED lighting retrofits and lighting controls upgrades to increase light level quality, flexibility and efficiency, and reduce maintenance costs while providing outdoor lighting that supports campus safety.

Specific examples of work already underway or scheduled for the coming months include indoor and outdoor lighting upgrades across the campus, domestic water conservation measures in campus housing, window replacements in numerous buildings, piping insulation, chilled water plant modernization, improvements in building automation systems, heating/venting/ air conditioning upgrades, and electrical and mechanical improvements.  “The net impact of the changes should be a reduction of more than 15,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year and an annual savings of more than 20 million gallons of water,” said Westmoreland. “Given Alabama’s current drought, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of our commitment.”

Updated Campus Master Plan Sets Course for Samford University’s Future

Samford University’s 175-year history is one of academic excellence and leadership. The vision of the institution’s founders to provide a college of high character is as strong today as it was in the beginning. That vision is taking new root in the first major update of the university master plan since the campus moved to its current location in the 1950s. The university engaged Birmingham-based Davis Architects and Boston-based Dober Lidskey Mathey to assist with developing the new long-range plan, which was approved in concept in December of 2016 by the university’s board of trustees.

The plan features four phases that align with the university’s strategic plan and addresses needs in a long-term, fiscally appropriate and responsible way, according to Harry B. Brock III, Samford’s executive vice president and vice president for business and financial affairs. Brock led a multifaceted, campus-wide review process that resulted in the new plan. The university sought input from all areas of Samford’s constituency-students, employees, alumni, community leaders and other friends of the university. More than 1,000 individuals participated in different meetings and public forums to formulate and discuss the plan.

Brock said the planning included goals that would enhance the teaching and learning environment, contribute to student success, allow for growth of new and existing programs, improve campus connectivity and space utilization, and address current and ongoing maintenance while preserving the university’s nationally recognized aesthetic.

A Plan for Continued Growth

The plan provides support for continued growth. Samford’s enrollment has grown 22 percent over the last 10 years. University officials anticipate strong growth in undergraduate and graduate programs, including current and new offerings in health sciences. New facilities for the College of Health Sciences and Brock School of Business provided what Brock called an “incredible opportunity to reimagine space assignment” of spaces vacated by those programs in existing buildings. Brock said that with “few key exceptions,” Samford has sufficient space available on campus for reutilization to meet growth. The plan’s four phases extend over a ten to twenty-year implementation period.

Phase one includes new residence facilities to accommodate expected growth and renovations to existing academic spaces for Howard College of Arts and Sciences and the School of the Arts. Centralized relocation of admission, an enhanced Student Success Center and other student services also are included. Phase two includes enhanced teaching and learning spaces, renovations to the university center and other academic spaces, as well as additional parking. Phase three includes potential expansion of College of Health Sciences facilities, and additional residential space and parking to accommodate expected enrollment growth. Phase four and independent projects might include renovations to student recreation and fitness facilities, athletics facilities, the fine arts center, and additional housing and parking. Improvements in pedestrian walkways, transportation circulation, sustainability, ADA enhancements, way-finding and signage improvements, and landscaping and contemplative spaces are also part of the long range plan.

Some projects already are underway, including a renovation of the Reid Chapel/Burns Hall/Chapman Hall complex and expansion of the chiller plant as part of the campus infrastructure improvement plan. Components of the transportation plan were implemented in fall 2016. Brock said the plan and recommendations for individual projects would continue moving forward as projects are scheduled and funds are available. The university recently launched a multiyear, $300 million campaign, Forever Samford, to assist in providing funds for the campus master plan implementation.

About the Authors
Philip Poole, APR, is Executive Director of University Communication for Samford University. Poole has more than 35 years experience in public relations and marketing, including 25 years in higher education.

William A. Nunnelley, APR, is Senior Editor and Director of Public Relations for Marketing and Communication. Nunnelley directs the Samford University News Bureau and has served in Samford's university advancement department for more than three decades.