Vanderbilt Magazine

How to tear down a dorm: Expert advice from Vanderbilt Campus Planning

In May 2012 Vanderbilt broke ground on College Halls at Kissam, two residential colleges that together will house about 660 upperclassmen starting in 2014. Tony Fort considers the project to be among the most ambitious during his 27 years at the university.

“This is the single largest construction project Vanderbilt has ever done,” he says. “Building The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons was a larger undertaking, but that was more like a series of projects.”

In particular, what sets this project apart is not only the size of the buildings going up but also the size of the ones that first had to come down. Before construction could begin, it was necessary to demolish the original six Kissam Quadrangle dormitories, which totaled more than 131,000 square feet.

1. Conduct a feasibility study

Before any plans were drawn up, Vanderbilt conducted a feasibility study to answer some basic questions: How much would the project cost? How long would it take? Would the site work for what the university had in mind?

2. Develop a demolition plan

Vanderbilt hired Brasfield & Gorrie, a firm headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., as the general contractor, and the demolition was subcontracted to Hendersonville, Tenn.-based Environmental Abatement Inc. (EAI). The contractors estimated that each building would take 14 days to demolish.

3. Remove hazardous materials

Given the age of the buildings, asbestos abatement was a concern, particularly because demolition could create dangerous airborne particles. Vanderbilt hired local environmental engineering firm Planning and Design Research Engineers (PDRE) to provide a survey of hazardous materials and then oversee their removal.

4. Tear down the buildings, and dispose of the debris

Demolition lasted from May 30 to Aug. 3—66 days in all, or 18 days less than originally estimated. Crews removed 13,360 tons of material, including 58,400 square feet of brick walls. Nearly 12,000 tons of debris were diverted from the landfill through recycling.





Watch a demolition video, learn some facts about Old Kissam Quad, and see some construction photos of the new College Halls.


Watch a video of the demolition of Kissam Quad:

Random facts about Old Kissam:
In 2010 the six dormitories of Kissam Quadrangle housed 591 students, all in single rooms. (Each building was home to 101 students, with the exception of Kissam, which had 86 residents.) If one were to estimate that the dormitories averaged 530 residents per year (90 percent occupancy) during their 55 years of existence, then Kissam Quadrangle housed roughly 29,000 Vanderbilt students in all.

The principal engineer in charge of the hazardous materials survey for PDRE was Ajeya “AJ” Upadhyaya, MS’71, PhD’73. While studying at Vanderbilt, he lived in Currey dormitory.

More than 200 aluminum grilles, featuring an oak leaf motif, decorated the original dormitories. During demolition, workers salvaged approximately 100 of these grilles. Vanderbilt plans to reuse many of them in the new College Halls, and several others are already on display at Featheringill-Jacobs Hall.


View a slideshow of aerial photos of the construction site »