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March 18, 2008

Law School Building Expansion Project In The Design Phase

By Sarah Rizzo

The Michigan Law School’s building expansion project is currently in the design phase after the Board of Regents formally approved the proposal in December. With an estimated cost of $102 million, the project will include the construction of two buildings. The Board of Regents will vote again in the future on the design and construction schedule.

In December, the Board also voted to approve the hiring of Hartman-Cox Architects of Washington D.C.; Integrated Design Solutions of Troy, Michigan will work with Hartman-Cox on the expansion designs. Hartman-Cox’s previous projects include law buildings and libraries at Georgetown University, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Connecticut. Integrated Design Solutions is currently working on the University of Michigan’s art museum renovation. The schematic design drawings are in the drafting process.


The construction of additional buildings has been in the works for several years. In 1999, the law school commissioned a study about the Law School’s evolving space needs. Students were interviewed about what changes they thought would be useful. Brent Dickman, Director of Finance and Planning, said “it became very clear that there needed to be more common areas, office space and classrooms.?

The project will be funded with Law School resources, University investment proceeds, and gifts from private donors. According to Dickman, there is still more fundraising to be done, but there is a plan in place.

The project aims to enlarge the space available and to meet the demands of the increased student and faculty size, as well as to facilitate different teaching styles. The expansion calls for a 100,000-square foot, $80 million academic building to be built on the south side of Monroe Street, north of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. A 16,000-square foot Law School Commons building will be located on the south side of the existing quad between Hutchins Hall and the Legal Research Building.

The buildings will house classrooms, clinics, seminar rooms, office space, study areas, faculty offices, and lounge facilities. Plans include special clinical program facilities that incorporate elements of modern law offices, such as client conference rooms. The expansion project will also include the replacement of the gray metal siding on the Legal Research Building and various upgrades to Hutchins Hall.

The building committee has set up seven design groups to oversee elements of the project: clinics, south hall classrooms, law school commons, sustainability, south hall administration, faculty support spaces, and IT infrastructure.

Student representatives sit on the design groups to provide input. “I was happy to serve in an advisory capacity for the design groups. I think that the new buildings will provide extra student space that will be very helpful for students in future years,? says Sarah Bullard, a 1L student representative on the building committee. “The Building Committee cares a great deal about the student representatives’ input and pays a lot of attention to all our opinions,? adds Bullard.

Student groups are also offering their input into the project. The Environmental Law Society formed the Green Building Initiative to lobby the building committee to set higher environmental standards for the new buildings. The group wants the renovation plans to allow for the structures to be certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System (LEED). No decision has been reached about LEED certification, but the Building Committee has voiced its intention to make sustainability a priority.

It is unclear whether construction on the two buildings will be completed at the same time. Dickman says there seems to be a general consensus amongst committee members that the new buildings will look and feel like the current Law Quadrangle. Hartman-Cox has previously worked on a number of Collegiate Gothic style projects.

After design plans are finalized, they will be submitted to the Board of Regents for approval. The final stage in the process will be the Board’s approval of the construction schedule. “Construction could begin in as early as 18 months or in the Fall of 2009,? says Dickman.