Griffin Hall ready for action…almost

Northern Kentucky University’s newest building Griffin Hall, featuring state-of-the-art technology, ideas and original classroom designs has finally opened for classes. But all of the much-heralded technology isn’t quite living up to it’s name yet. Information Technology professionals are working around the clock to install remaining technology, but some students will have to wait to use it until Griffin’s Oct. 10 grand opening.

Griffin Hall houses the College of Informatics, a discipline that merges three different departments: Business Informatics, Communication and Computer Science. But the building and informatics are not just about technology, according to Kevin Kirby, Interim Dean of the College of Informatics.

“Some people may think informatics is just about technology; we want the building to show it’s much more than that,” Kirby said. “It’s about being social, being connected, even being green.”

The building was created to inspire all students to see how informatics connects to their own majors, according to Kirby; which is why classes from other colleges are also taught in Griffin.

The classrooms and learning spaces are unique compared to the rest on campus, as many of Griffin’s are designed specifically to house components and equipment for particular departments. For example, there are state-of-the-art labs for digital media creation, health informatics, computer networking and journalism, among many others.

Although the spaces offer students a new way to learn and professors a new way to teach, it has been hard for some to utilize the equipment. Only about 70 percent of the classrooms are equipped with audio/visual systems, according to Rob Knarr, Senior Project Manager/Associate Director of Architecture, Design & Construction Management.

Chris Strobel, Electronic Media & Broadcasting professor, and his team have been encouraging professors to set contingency plans into place in case of “technological hiccups.” Because it is still early in the semester, many classes are not getting into the technology right away, so Strobel said his expectations are still high.

“The excitement we’ve seen from faculty and students appears to indicate a very successful semester and beyond,” he said.

Senior communication studies major Nicole Secen is among those students that do like the building, even if she has not experienced the technology yet. “I really like the dry erase walls,” she said. It’s still early in the semester; but so far, Secen is impressed by the building’s architecture and ample seating space.

A number of students have been working in the building and alongside the technology installation. Junior computer science major Sean Butts works as a mobile application developer for the Center for Applied Informatics, and has been in Griffin since the end of July.

The new Mac computers in his office are one of his favorite parts of moving in, as well as the open-air atrium and Digitorium.

The Digitorum, a two-story digital auditorium, will host everything from opera and dance concerts to cyber warfare games, according to Kirby.

The Digitorum and technology aspects are not the building’s only attempt at fresh and new features — Griffin is also designed to more be earth-friendly than any other building on campus. According to Knarr the building is targeted to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification, and it is the university’s first attempt towards certification.

To work towards the certification, Griffin Hall is equipped with efficient lighting and plumbing and uses local construction materials when possible, and “most dramatic of all, it has a rooftop garden,” Kirby said. The “green roof” covers 23 percent of the total building roof area.

Although the roof does not qualify for LEED certification, it does promote sustainability by consuming and reusing rain water rather than diverting runoff to the storm sewer system, according to Knarr. The green roof also helps reduce sunlight heat transmission into the spaces below, which helps reduce energy consumption for cooling.

Griffin Hall’s grand opening, scheduled for Oct. 10, should mark the installation of all audio/visual systems in every classroom. Until then students and professors will have to work around the missing technology.