Wheeler Hall to close for a year of renovations

Wheeler Hall, home to UC Berkeley’s largest lecture hall, plus the English department and dozens of classrooms and offices, is closing for a year of renovations starting this June.

When it reopens for the fall 2017 semester, the building won’t look all that different, but it should be a lot more comfortable, as well as more energy- and water-efficient. Among the planned upgrades are: entirely re-done bathrooms on the second, third and fourth floors, a new heat and air circulation system in the auditorium, new paint and lighting in the classrooms, and repairs, new paint and better lighting in the hallways.

The lobby will get new flooring and brighter lighting. And a new elevator will serve all floors.

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Wheeler Hall (UC Berkeley photo by Elena Zhukova)

The exterior will look much the same, but the roof will get repairs and the window frames will be restored and painted.

In preparation for the project, one of the biggest challenges has been figuring out where to move all the classes that typically use Wheeler — especially the auditorium, which seats 700.

Led by the registrar’s office, a group has looked at every part of campus to identify teaching spaces that could be used for classrooms of all sizes. Pauley Ballroom will be used for classes and events that would have filled the auditorium, while other large lectures will use Hertz Hall and Booth Auditorium at the School of Law.

Most offices are going to either the Hearst Field Annex or Hearst Gym.

Classrooms in Wheeler typically stay open until 10 p.m., so they’ve served as spaces for DeCal classes as well as group meetings and group study, says Christine Shaff, communications director in the campus real estate office.

“Happily, the Moffitt Library renovation is scheduled to be done this summer,” she says. The new fourth and fifth floors at Moffitt will have 24-hour study areas with food allowed. The new Lower Sproul complex is also an option for after-hours study space.

The Disabled Student Program operates out of Wheeler’s basement, and does test proctoring there. The program has found alternate spaces, Shaff says. The College Writing Programs have moved as well. The English Department will the last unit to go; the move is scheduled for the week of May 23.

Campus recycling and reuse services have been closely involved in the moves, helping to direct waste away from landfills.

ETS — Educational Technology Services, which provides classrooms with audiovisual and computer technology — has already moved their offices out of Wheeler. Its Classroom Technology Support team will continue to support technology needs in general assignment classrooms, including the majority of temporary spaces assigned for the duration of the Wheeler project, according to ETS Director Jenn Stringer.

ETS is putting the final touches on a website that will have details about the temporary classroom spaces that will be used next year. The site, at WheelerRenewal.berkeley.edu, is expected to be up by the end of May and will provide instructors with the information they need and allow for a virtual visit to the room any time during the summer. Once fall semester starts, ETS will also do in-person consultations.

“We strongly encourage instructors to request a classroom consultation early to become familiar with the technology available in their new room,” Stringer advises. In-room consultations will be limited during the first two weeks of instruction, “so we recommend you book them now and in the week prior to instruction if possible.”

The Wheeler project webpage at http://realestate.berkeley.edu/wheeler-renewal will include a directory of where to find Wheeler’s occupants over the next year.