For years, the Brown Social Science Center was seen to many students and faculty as a run-down piece of campus infrastructure with many issues, such as lead in the water. Brandeis administration has planned to renovate Brown for many years and the project is near completion as of this November. The design process began in the middle of 2021 and construction began in 2022. The process was the most comprehensive renovation at Brandeis in many years according to Senior Capital Project Manager Michael Bushey, although the University faced obstacles in their efforts to renovate.

“Brown has long been on the list for building upgrades related to deferred maintenance and was prioritized for a project after a series of floods between 2019 and 2021 resulting from deteriorating [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] piping,” Bushey said in a Nov. 15 email to the Justice. 

Besides the series of issues the building had prior to renovation, there were other goals the administration sought to meet. “The intent of the project was to bring the building up to the current energy codes and [Americans with Disabilities Act] standards in parallel with Brandeis’s commitment of increasing energy efficiency and reducing the University’s carbon footprint,” Bushey said. To meet these goals, the main focus of the project was to construct high-efficiency HVAC systems, plumbing, lighting, glazing, and a new elevator. City inspectors approved the upgrades in early September, and the final testing date for the building’s features is Dec. 4. 

There were also several aesthetic improvements made to the building. In particular, contractors installed more exterior windows and new flooring, cleaned and selectively painted the building, and revamped the first-floor lobby. 

However, numerous unforeseen circumstances hindered the completion of the project by the start of the school year. As a result of reengineering and reworking, as well as supply-chain issues, the project schedule was significantly impacted. “In order for the occupants of the building to get settled in before the upcoming semester, we had to make the decision to move them back into the building before we had the opportunity to work out all the issues in the new systems,” Bushey explained in a Nov. 10 email.

Several professors expressed their frustration with the incomplete work, with some of the problems being a faculty member’s room being over 100 degrees, mice living on every floor, and lights flickering on and off without warning in offices. 

“The biggest issue for me was the bathrooms. I do have some of the same light issues ...these issues aren’t as physically troubling to me as they are to some of my colleagues,” Prof. Maura Farrelly (AMST) said in an Oct. 31 interview with the Justice. She referred to the cramped bathroom stalls: “Just look at it: how did they ever think somebody could sit on it [the toilet]?”

Within the month of October, however, installers made strides in addressing the issues with the building. There have been adjustments to resolve HVAC noise issues and a plan to fix the lighting system has been established with some of the offices being fixed already. To address the small bathrooms, the project team contacted an outside contractor to expand the stall and renovations are projected to be completed by the end of winter break.

Despite challenges, professors are relieved by the changes that were implemented in the building. “I can’t remember if it was two floods and a fire or two fires and a flood, and it all involved the HVAC system,” Prof. Farrelly said. “It was time for it to be renovated.”

Professors also emphasized the importance of having more office space. “Legal studies used to be spread out across four different buildings. We are together now which is important,” Prof. Rosalind Kabrhel (LGLS) said.

As the Brown project comes to a close, the administration plans to continue renovations to other parts of the campus. “Renovation of the Usdan plaza is underway, and the design process will soon begin on some of the older science buildings. The final selection and time frame is being evaluated,” Bushey told the Justice. These projects are part of Brandeis’s effort to continue investing in campus infrastructure to support the community.