The new H.M. Comer Hall radiates professionalism and class and is a one-stop shop for students to get all of their engineering needs met in one place.
The newly renovated building provides an appropriate entryway into the Shelby Engineering and Science Quad and has become the portal into The University of Alabama College of Engineering. From advising to administration, the building houses each office students will need to visit throughout their college career.
“We have a really nice place for students to come at a single location,” said Dr. Ken Fridley, senior associate dean for administration, who took the lead in the building renovation. “Also, with the level of detail in the building, we are able to really communicate a very high level of professionalism that’s associated with engineering and computer science.”
The building is a comprehensive space for the entire College and not any specific department. Having these student support offices in the same building is an advantage, Fridley said, because it is easier to guide students to the appropriate offices for their various academic needs.
“When you’re working with students and you need to refer them to someone else, they are all in the same location,” Fridley said. “It really focuses those support services for faculty and students in a single location.”
UA College of Engineering Dean Chuck Karr said the only thing the Shelby complex lacked was an entryway to the College. By renovating Comer, Karr said that need was addressed and created a showpiece facility the College is proud of having on display.
“We wanted to make a statement that you’ve arrived in the College of Engineering,” Karr said.
The two goals of the project were for people who entered the building to recognize that they were at The University of Alabama and that they were at a premier college of engineering.
“For us to be able to have, now, that first impression be really what the College deserves in terms of our quality and the scope of our programs, it was really important to get that sooner than later,” Fridley said about the timing of the project.
The renovation process started in February 2017. At that time, several offices moved from Comer to a temporary home in Hardaway Hall. The goal was to complete the project by August 2018.
“It was very important to the College that we move in prior to the fall semester starting,” Fridley said, adding he was very pleased with how it came together.
Karr is delighted to have a space students, faculty, staff and alumni can be proud of calling their own, and he believes the new building will be a major benefit to the College. In particular, he is especially pleased with the unique signage in the halls because he feels it clearly communicates the mission and history of the College.
Most academic buildings do not necessarily advertise the institution where they are located, and it was important to engineering administrators to make it clear that this college is part of UA. College administrators were inspired by the University’s athletic facilities and worked with the same graphics design company, 49 Degrees, to make this goal a reality.
The second goal was to have open spaces that were accessible and not locked behind closed doors. The large foyer and glass walls throughout the building help draw people in to the activity of the College.
“We really think the architects, contractors, engineers and interior design teams involved hit it out of the park on this one. They really were very successful,” Fridley said.