Construction of Health Sciences building to begin this summer


The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

For over three years, Appalachian State University has been planning to make a building for the Beaver College of Health Sciences. Now, with the passage of the Connect NC bond, construction of the building will begin July 1.

For over three years, Appalachian State University has been planning to make a building for the Beaver College of Health Sciences. Now, with the passage of the Connect NC bond, construction of the building will begin July 1.

The Connect NC bond allocates approximately $70 million for the construction of the building. Around $5 million will come from the university, and $4 million will come from private donors.

The building will be located on the corner of State Farm Rd and Deerfield Rd, approximately two miles away from the main campus.

Despite the distance, Fred Whitt, the dean of the College of Health Sciences, thinks the benefits of the location far outweigh the problems of the location.

“We are very fortunate that Appalachian Regional Healthcare System has donated the property for the new building,” Whitt said. “Many of our programs have clinical experiences and Watauga Medical Center is our primary location for those experiences and we will be right across the street.”

According to Mike O’Connor, the director of the Physical Plant, the building will be five stories tall, and will be set back from the road.

“We don’t want there to just be this huge, imposing feeling because the building is right on the road,” O’Connor said. “So we decided to have it taper off away from the road to make it look more inviting.”

The building will share a similar style to the Reich College of Education building and Belk Library, with red bricks, white banding and elkstone.

“The style is what I’d call transitional,” O’Connor said. “It’s definitely more modern than your typical university building, but it’s not all glass and chrome.”

Beyond classrooms and faculty offices, the building will have an interprofessional health clinic for student training including areas for audiology, voice and swallowing, nutrition intervention, and social work counseling.

The building will house labs for human anatomy and physiology, exercise science, nursing, physical and occupational therapy, and nutrition and foods innovation. It will also feature a large lecture hall for classes and special functions.

The chief theme behind the building’s design is flexibility, Whitt said.

“The central theme is to embrace and facilitate interprofessional experiences and to utilize technology in instruction with flexible classrooms offering a variety of classroom delivery options,” Whitt said.

An array of solar panels will be placed on the roof of the building, which O’Connor said exemplifies the school’s commitment to sustainability.

“The photovoltaic array won’t be able power the whole building, but it’ll help us shave peaks and greatly reduce our carbon footprint,” O’Connor said.

Currently, the College of Health Sciences is spread out between seven buildings, which Whitt said makes it difficult to create collaborative experiences for faculty and students. He hopes that, with one central location, more interactions will be possible.

“Having almost all programs in one space will now facilitate health professional students in nursing, nutrition, social work, health care management, communication sciences and disorder, exercise science, athletic training and health promotion to all be training together and in teams,” Whitt said.

Because of this, the new building will free up approximately 100,000 square feet of academic space. The College of Health Sciences has 16 majors, and 14 of them will be housed in the new building, which will free up space in the seven buildings the college currently resides in.

Whitt said this will help fix significant space needs on campus for programs outside of the College of Health Sciences.

New Appalcart routes will be created to accommodate the building’s location, O’Connor said.

Bill Bailey, the director of Boone Planning and Inspections, said that in the future they will likely look to add more housing in the surrounding area, which will be used primarily by students, faculty and medical professionals.

The construction of the building will be handled by a company called Rodgers Builders, a local firm based in Charlotte.

The construction should take two years to complete.

Ultimately, Whitt believes the building will be a major advancement for the College of Health Sciences.

“This building will be transformational for our students and faculty in the BCHS,” Whitt said. “It will become the major hub for education of health professions in the western half of North Carolina and will serve as an outreach and beacon for enhancing the health and quality of life.”

Story by Tommy Culkin, Senior News Reporter