Schenectady County

Union College’s new apartments offer comforts of home

Garnet Commons, Union College’s brand-new, apartment-style residence building at the corner of Roger
Front porch at the new Union College dorms, called Garnet Commons, located at the corner of Roger Hull Place and Park Place.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Front porch at the new Union College dorms, called Garnet Commons, located at the corner of Roger Hull Place and Park Place.

“It’s a little feature, but still,” said architect Daria Mallin, giving an open kitchen drawer a push.

The drawer slid closed without the expected slam — a soft-close feature, she explained.

Garnet Commons, Union College’s brand-new, apartment-style residence building at the corner of Roger Hull Place and Park Place, has all sorts of features that speak more of home than of a college abode.

In the works since May of 2014, the 38,000-square-foot building holds 23 fully furnished two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments reserved for upperclassmen.

Only a few students have moved in so far. Most will get their keys on the college’s official move-in day, Sept. 8.

Student input helped determine furniture style, color schemes and even the 80-bed building’s design.

“They talked about how space would be used and voted on a name for the building,” said Mallin, project manager for Envision Architects of Albany, the firm that designed the structure.

From the look of things, Union students have excellent taste.

The building’s first-floor multipurpose room has sofas and easy chairs with a retro vibe. There’s a large TV mounted on one wall, a table and chairs where groups can gather for meetings or meals, and

large windows that look out on a sizable stone patio.

Colors throughout the building are earthy blues, greens, rust and tan.

Each of the structure’s three stories has a laundry room, a common area with sofas and tables, and a quiet study room.

“Students seem to be most excited right now about the dry erase wall,” said Amanda Bingel, Union’s director of residential life, pointing at a large expanse of white wall in one of the study rooms.

With the addition of the apartments to Union’s housing options, about 95 percent of students will live in campus housing, said Loren Rucinski, Union’s director of facilities and planning.

The Garnet Commons apartments have an open floor plan, the kitchen separated from the living room by a counter with stools. The living quarters feature solid surface countertops, maple veneer cabinets and vinyl tile flooring that looks like hardwood.

The building’s exterior was designed to blend in with neighboring architecture. The facade bumps out in spots, giving the appearance of several structures connected together. Multiple roof peaks add to that illusion.

“We didn’t want a large mass of a building,” Mallin explained.

The siding is tan- and sage-colored, with garnet accents.

Designed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, the building has solar panels on the roof and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems. An interactive kiosk in the lobby will allow residents to monitor how the building is functioning with its sustainable features and also to see how much energy they’re consuming in their own apartments.

Signs throughout the building remind residents of ways to use less energy. One by the elevator says, “Burn calories, not electricity. Take the stairs!”

The $9 million building project finished on time and on budget, said Rucinski.

The crew from Sano-Rubin Construction Services of Albany, the general contractor for the project, was pouring concrete slabs in January and February, he recalled.

“The framing crew was out there at 10 below,” said T. Scott Hawkins, project executive and senior project manager for the construction company.

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