ASU reopened its repaired and refurbished Memorial Union for the start of classes on Monday, 10 months after fire nearly destroyed the Tempe campus’ busiest building.
Everything but the 54-year-old building’s floor plan was overhauled to make it safer, more attractive and ecologically sensitive, said Kellie Lowe, director of the Arizona State University union.
“Every decision was made with students’ needs in mind,” Lowe said.
The university had closed the second and third floors, comprised of meeting rooms and a large restaurant, for months as workers scrambled to fix structural damage and finish the remodeling.
The $40-million project included installation of a new fire alarm and detection system and sprinklers, Lowe said.
Also, to comply with building code, ASU added a new stairway and widened some exits, said Christiana Q. Moss, the union project’s principal architect from the Phoenix firm Studio Ma.
Many of the features are intended to make the building more sustainable, Moss said.
“Ecosensors” now control the artificial lights in every room with a window that adjusts how much light the bulbs emit based on how much natural light is present. Moss said the union lights would use 70 percent less energy because of the sensors.
The union’s walls and floors are lined with woods from the western United States — Douglas fir, Mesquite and Eucalyptus — and Arizona Sandstone covers the hallways, Lowe said.
Aramark designed Engrained cafe, a restaurant on the second floor, to reinforce the sustainability theme, said Sam Zamrik, the company’s vice president for operations in Arizona. Aramark provides food service at the union and paid for the restaurant construction.
Engrained’s ingredients will come from local sources. Its tables and chairs are recycled aluminum and glass, he said.
Workers are planting wheat grass on the lunch counter. Bamboo covers the walls.
“This is sort of the mother ship for sustainable,” Zamrik said.
The union’s remodel came after a fire started in a second floor storage closet on Nov. 1. The top two floors lacked sprinklers or any fire suppression system.
The blaze spread quickly and filled the Arizona Ballroom with smoke. Tempe firefighters said the fire narrowly avoided a flashover — the temperature at which air and smoke burn.
About 5,000 students evacuated from the union after the fire started. No one was injured.
The university estimates that almost 30,000 people move through the union each weekday during the fall and spring semesters.