Topping-out UConn’s Newest Residence Hall

A flag and oak tree are lifted to the roof during topping off ceremony for the STEM residence hall on Sept. 14, 2015. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
A flag and oak tree are lifted to the roof during topping off ceremony for the STEM residence hall on Sept. 14, 2015. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

A milestone in the construction of UConn’s newest residence hall was marked on Monday with a topping-out ceremony.

As the first project begun under the auspices of the Next Generation Connecticut initiative, the event signified a milestone for the state as well. Known as the STEM Residence Hall for planning purposes, the building will be called “NextGen Hall” when it opens.

The $79 million, 210,000 square-foot building is being constructed according to LEED silver certification standards, and is slated for completion by summer 2016. Plans for the residence hall include creation of a new learning community for students pursuing majors in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“Anywhere you go in higher education, you’re likely to hear people talking about those so-called ‘STEM’ disciplines,” said University President Susan Herbst. “This project is proof that at UConn, we’re doing more than just talking.”

President Susan Herbst speaks during the topping off ceremony for the STEM residence hall on Sept. 14, 2015. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
President Susan Herbst speaks during the topping-out ceremony for Next Gen Hall on Sept. 14. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Simon Etzel, senior vice president and & principal of KBE Builders speaks during the topping off ceremony for the STEM residence hall on Sept. 14, 2015. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Simon Etzel, senior vice president and principal of KBE Builders, speaks during the event. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Warde Manuel, director of athletics, speaks during the topping off ceremony for the STEM residence hall on Sept. 14, 2015. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Warde Manuel, director of athletics, speaks during the topping-out ceremony for Next Gen Hall. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Topping-out, or ‘topping-off,’ is a builders’ tradition held when the last beam is put in place during construction. In the week leading up to the event, all project subcontractors were invited to sign the building’s last two precast planks. University officials and KBE leaders added their signatures during the ceremony.

Cheerleaders and Jonathan the Husky sign a concrete panel to be hoisted to the roof during the topping off ceremony for the STEM residence hall on Sept. 14, 2015. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Cheerleaders and Jonathan the Husky sign a precast plank to be hoisted to the roof of Next Gen Hall on Sept. 14. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
David Ouimette, executive director of first year programs & learning communities signs a concrete panel that will be hoisted to the roof during the topping off ceremony for the STEM residence hall on Sept. 14, 2015. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
David Ouimette, executive director of first year programs and learning communities, signs a precast plank during the topping-out ceremony. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The final two planks were hoisted together with an American flag to symbolize pride and and a live potted tree as a metaphor for the building coming to life. Traditionally an evergreen, the tree selected for this occasion was an oak – a nod to the state tree, which is also represented in the University’s seal containing an oak leaf. The tree will be worked into the building landscaping.

The Next Generation Connecticut (Next Gen) initiative is designed to greatly expand educational opportunities, research, and innovation in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines at the University during the next decade, with the overall goal of creating an infrastructure that supports Connecticut’s most important industries, including high-tech manufacturing.

One of the most ambitious state investments in economic development, higher education, and research in the nation, Next Gen will transform the University into a top public research institution that fuels Connecticut’s economy through new technologies, highly skilled graduates, and the creation of high-wage jobs.