A Must See

Interior space design for the University of Georgia’s (UGA) new facilities construction and major renovation projects involves all aspects of interior architecture: finishes; color and material specifications; and the selection of furnishings, fixtures, and equipment (FFE).

The Interiors director for the University’s Office of University Architects oversees all facets of operational support for interior space design. Preliminary project duties include consulting with the client and project management team to determine the overall scope, preparing product specifications, developing cost estimates, verifying budgets, producing bid documents when the desired products are not available on the Georgia Statewide Contracts, and creating space plans and three-dimensional renderings to convey the interiors proposal to the client.

While a project is in progress, the Interiors director is responsible for generating interior FF&E project schedules. These timetables ensure that delivery and installation of all materials transpire in accordance with the overall completion of construction, and they require continuous coordination between external design consultants, manufacturers, and suppliers of interior products.

All these services are performed to enhance the function and aesthetic quality of interior spaces on the University of Georgia’s campus. A recent expansion and renovation of the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall facility was exemplary of this total interior architecture approach.

The Office of University Architects served as the project management team for what has been described as “one of the elite football facilities in the entire country.” The Butts-Mehre expansion was designed specifically for the football program at an estimated cost of $39.5M. The original 81,000-sq.-ft. Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall facility was dedicated in the spring of 1987 and was named after two of the University’s most famous football coaches, Wallace Butts and Harry Mehre. Approximately 61,000 sq. ft. of this original building were renovated in several phases once the 35,000-sq.-ft. expansion was completed.

The original facility serves as the headquarters for the University of Georgia Athletic Association. The Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall and Sports Museum houses memorabilia, touch-screen displays, and video highlights of the long and proud heritage of Georgia athletics. Exhibits include the 1980 National Championship football trophy and Heisman trophies won by Frank Sinkwich and Herschel Walker, as well as items from the 1996 Olympics competition in Athens, and updates of current happenings in all University athletics.

Planning, Programming, Procurement

The programming and procurement of approximately $1.2M of moveable furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) delivery and installation (excluding audio/visual, graphics, athletic training equipment, etc.) spanned two years for the expansion and phased renovations of the existing facilities. This was accomplished while staff maintained occupancy of the 1987 facility.

Architectural finishes were selected by the design team to afford a sophisticated neutral palette of the University’s athletic colors. Paint selections included whites and grays, with limited accents of red. Coordinating neutral school colors were seen in materials such as laminates for flooring in the facility. Also, a carpet tile was selected after a three-month product review. The final selection, a multi-level pattern loop in a low maintenance nylon fiber, was deemed the best selection. The coordinating office suites were also finished with carpet tile, two patterns in a solution-dyed nylon fiber.

The floor coverings were evaluated on site in the lighting that would be utilized for the project, in hopes of determining the grays and charcoals that would not be too green or blue for the school’s color palette. The selection of a coordinating wall base to the flooring was another significant choice in tying the expansion to the existing facility. These products, obviously, provided the necessary backdrop for the graphics focal points throughout the facilities and the addition of red accents in fabric upholsteries and personal effects throughout the individual offices, conference, and training spaces.

Working With Standards

Several recent projects, renovations and new construction, had established standards for many FF&E items for the athletics facilities. The design team had established a standard desk/case good system for the athletics program. This system would be seen in all head coaches’ offices, the staff conference room, focal receptionist areas, and department heads’ suites. Thirty-five to 40 existing desks and credenzas were refinished to match the selected, standard veneers. Additional support spaces such as assistant coaches, graduate student assistant offices, and seminar/work rooms were furnished with desk systems in a dark laminate with black painted metal finishes, providing optimal storage capabilities for these areas.

Over the course of several months, task/desk chairs were evaluated and the ergonomic choice that suited the facilities’ aesthetic best was selected. The simplicity of the task/desk chair design utilizes a sophisticated mechanism that automatically adjusts the recline tension to match the body weight of the varied end users. Again, the neutral finishes of these furnishings complemented the designated color scheme.

Another item that required in-depth evaluation was the guest/side chair for offices throughout the facility. The selected chair would need to accommodate the average-sizes student-athlete, who obviously required a comfort and structural integrity that would exceed the specifications of the typical guest chair. Most guest chairs on the Statewide Contracts meet the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) standards, but a 250-lb. weight limit was not enough for the average athlete. The guest chair decided upon was tested beyond a 350-lb. weight capacity, with a comfortable seat width and depth measurement. These chairs were specified in low-maintenance black faux leather.

While most furnishings in public access areas were specified in the neutral athletic colors of blacks, charcoals, grays, and silvers, the players’ team lounges afforded the opportunity to add upholsteries and accents of the more vibrant Georgia Red. Theater seating was specified in classic black and classic American Beauty red faux leathers with the embroidered Georgia “G” Logo, in the approved tri-color way, for the inside backs of the lounge seats. An actual size sample of the logo was created for approval prior to manufacturing the seating order. The same upholstery combinations were used for the swivel chairs and the elongated sectional seating with chaise lounges and ottomans.

The project to expand and renovate the Butts-Mehre building took approximately 30 months to complete. The project also included the addition of grass practice fields and renovations to the existing building. The finished project is a must-see for fans of UGA athletics. 

Brenda T. Elrod, BSHE, MHE, MBA, is assistant director, Interiors, for the Office of University Architects at the University of Georgia. She can be reached at [email protected] or 706/542-7356.

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