Central Pool Classroom Renovation Background and Scope


The Central Pool began with 55 classrooms. That number has fluctuated through the years as classrooms were added and removed. There are currently 193 classrooms in the Pool distributed across seven schools (Annenberg, Arts & Sciences, Education, Engineering, Nursing, Social Policy & Practice, and Weitzman) in 28 buildings.

In 1992, Provost Michael Aiken created the Classroom Facilities Review Committee to develop and manage a program of expedited renovation for the Central Pool Classrooms. The Committee was charged with developing a prioritized list of classroom improvement projects and was provided an initial annual budget of $1M for implementation.

Under the direction of a faculty chair, the Committee includes faculty and staff from schools that use classrooms in the Central Pool, as well as representatives from the Division of University Life (VPUL), Information Systems and Computing (ISC), the Office of the University Registrar (OUR), and Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES). Faculty participation assures that the work of the Committee reflects — and is responsive to — the academic needs of constituent schools and departments, as well as to those of the University as a whole. The promotion of quality classroom space across the University continues to be a key goal of the Committee.

Faculty and senior staff on the Committee prioritize projects; a renovation subcommittee, chaired by the University Registrar, oversees the details of implementation.

The number of rooms in the Central Pool has increased dramatically since the inception of the Committee, with the largest increase coming in 1996 as the School of Arts & Sciences moved most of its classrooms into the Pool. The earliest projects focused entirely on improving general room conditions: i.e., lighting, seating, interior finishes, and HVAC. By 1994, renovation projects began to include installation of computer projection systems.

Increasingly, technology has become a central component of classroom design; as a result, the installation and maintenance of technology has continued to consume a larger portion of renovation budgets. In 1998, recognizing that the continued installation of technology across Penn’s campus required a mechanism for sustainability, the Committee helped establish Classroom Technology Services (CTS), which is responsible for the design, installation, and maintenance of technology in Central Pool Classrooms. CTS, a unit of Information Systems and Computing, is funded directly by the Office of the Provost.

In FY 2004, the Provost agreed that the Committee allocation would increase to $1.5M and to $2M per year in FY 2005. This increase was implemented to accelerate the pace of renovations, to compensate for the discontinuation of Pennsylvaina Commonwealth Technology grants, and to allow for an increasing portion of the budget to be allocated to CTS for the replacement of outdated equipment in renovated spaces.

Scope of Renovations

Many classroom renovation projects are initiated and funded by the Committee as “stand alone” projects, focusing entirely on classroom interiors with minimal impact on the surrounding building. Other projects are done in coordination with larger, building-wide renovations. In these latter cases, the Classroom Facilities Review Committee oversees most aspects of classroom design and provides funding proportional to the cost of its typical renovation scope. This arrangement helps to leverage the Committee’s experience and standards and provides effective coordination for the overall project, while maintaining a fair distribution of cost between the schools and the Committee.

Classroom renovation typically includes installation of new flooring, seating, lighting, ceilings, and chalkboards. Some renovations involve changing partition walls or making improvements to local HVAC components. Many projects also involve the installation of projection systems with supporting infrastructure. The Committee solicits advice from the home department and takes great care in its design to provide good sightlines, acoustics, and effective integration of technology.