The Challenges of Building and Renovating Fraternity and Sorority Houses

Steeped in history, MU’s fraternity and sorority houses present unique revamping obstacles.

COMO is a college town through and through. Higher education is an institution in and of itself here, and as the first public university west of the Mississippi River, MU is the anchor of a vibrant city that continues to grow outside of campus.

Among the buildings that form the university are those housing the Greek Life community. Many of these stately, massive homes have been here for years and housed thousands of residents over the years.

As with any home, COMO’s Greek houses need improvements from time to time. And those renovations often come with unique challenges.

It’s Hard to Get to Old Systems

When most of these Greek Life homes were built, water and electric demand was lower and central air conditioning didn’t exist. In the 21 st century, the load is tremendous, far outpacing what was necessary when most of these homes were built.

When the infrastructure of these homes needs upgrading, you have to get behind the walls. To do that, you must deal with old finishes such as plaster, lath, or wood paneling. You may also need to address environmental hazards including asbestos, mold, lead paint, and mercury.

Sometimes, you work around what is there, such as our renovation and addition to the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house that was originally built in 1880. Other times, it’s better to demolish what’s there to make room for a beautiful new build, such as the Alpha Phi sorority house. Whether the home is original, new, or a combination of the two, the infrastructure can be state-of-the-art if your construction team knows what it’s doing.

You Need to Accommodate the Sense of Tradition

Few things have a greater sense of tradition than Greek Life. Not only is that reflected in the ideals of individual fraternities and sororities, but it is reflected in their homes. Whether you’re upgrading systems or just giving the home a much-needed facelift, preserving the character of the home is part and parcel of tradition. Wood paneling; window and door casings; crown and base moldings; hardwood; marble and terrazzo floors; grand staircases, and other features are integral to the home.

It isn’t always easy to work around the finishes of character homes. Moreover, some chapters want to restore some of the character that was removed during previous renovations. You must work with a construction management team that values the craftsmanship of what’s to be left and who can restore or recreate what the organization wants to put back. That’s what Beta House and Delta Gamma sorority did when they updated their homes.

Little Dixie Construction has partnered with numerous Mizzou fraternities and sororities whose homes are integral parts of their tradition and their future recruiting efforts. Those beautiful old homes can indeed be a challenge — but it’s one our craftsmen and women accept with pride.

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