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LEWISBURG, Pa. — The beam swung 50 feet above campus, approximately 30 feet and 600 pounds of painted steel gleaming bright orange against a blue sky. It's the last piece of steel to be placed in Academic West, which is the first structure in the single-largest building project Bucknell University has ever undertaken.
President John Bravman, representatives from the Board of Trustees and construction team, and more than 100 Bucknell students, faculty and staff watched from the ground. They could barely make out the Bucknell "B" emblazoned on the hoisted beam's side, or the names they'd signed in black marker only moments before. But they knew they were there.
"Literally and figuratively, we're building the next chapter in the University's history," said Bravman over the din of forklifts and cranes. "Today we all step into that history."
They had gathered for Bucknell's first recorded "topping out" ceremony since the University was founded in 1846. The Sept. 13, 2012, event marked the erection of the last piece of structural steel in Academic West. It is the first new academic building constructed at Bucknell since 2004. || Related: architectural renderings of Academic West
One hundred and seventy years ago, the 50-acre tract of land just south of Bertrand Library was farm, field and forest. When it opens for classes in August 2013, the new three-story Academic West will house 70,000 square feet of classrooms, offices, laboratories, meeting areas and hearth spaces, and be the nexus of a new academic quad for Bucknell. "Imagine looking down the center line of this quad — east, toward the Susquehanna River," said Bravman. "This is the next iconic vista that we're building here at the University."
Academic West is part of the Campus Master Plan initiated in 2007, which serves as a blueprint for future campus buildings and green spaces. A Nov. 13, 2010 groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of work on infrastructure that supports the expansion, and the Board of Trustees approved construction of Academic West in October 2011. The facility will house the economics, environmental studies, geography, international relations, Latin American studies, political science, and sociology and anthropology departments. || Related: Facebook gallery
Academic West will be LEED certified at a silver level, meeting strict standards for energy efficiency and environmental impact and stewardship. The facility will include a partial "green roof," rain gardens with native plants to help manage stormwater runoff, water-efficient fixtures to reduce potable water use by at least 30 percent and energy performance that is at least 24 percent more efficient than that achieved under typical design standards. The cost of construction for Academic West is estimated at $24 million. || Related: Ask the Experts with Associate Vice president for Facilities Dennis Hawley '72, M'73
"This truly is a great day for the University," said Bravman. "Academic West is a perfect metaphor for how we are building our young people, and the agency of our faculty and staff." Bravman offered his deepest thanks to the University's Board of Trustees, including Ellen Bush '79 and John Mathias '69, as well as the Bucknell community as a whole for helping make Academic West a reality.
"The University is about people," said Bravman. "But you can't bring great people together to do great things unless you also have great places for them to work and build together. This is what we're doing today. It is the legacy of the next, best version of Bucknell."
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