UC Merced is entering a significant new phase of construction, the likes of which the campus has not seen since before it opened in 2005.
The construction projects will add nearly 270,000 gross square feet in the next two years, which will increase the campus’ physical space by about 25 percent. The additions will add critically needed academic, recreation and residential housing space that will allow the university to accommodate its growing population.
Work scheduled to begin in the coming months includes the following projects:
- Housing 4, a new residential unit that will accommodate up to 500 students
- Recreation Center North, an expansion of the Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center
- Science and Engineering Building 2
- Student Services Building
The estimated cost of the four building projects and an associated infrastructure project is $170 million. With the exception of Science and Engineering Building 2, funding for the projects comes from non-state sources.
Instructional space is of particular need on campus, according to Vice Chancellor for Administration Mary Miller. The lack of instructional space has resulted in the campus needing to schedule more classes during evenings and weekends.
“We are encouraged and excited about the growth of our campus,” Miller said. “It is an exciting time for our campus, and when these projects are completed, they will advance UC Merced’s ability to meet its research, teaching and public service goals.”
The projects will also advance UC Merced’s commitment to sustainability. The campus was already the first in the nation to have all of its buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program and had previously set an unprecedented goal of achieving LEED Silver or higher ratings on all buildings.
“We’re raising the bar,” Principal Planner Richard Cummings said. “The goal is to achieve LEED Platinum for all four buildings and continue to educate people regarding the campus’ long-term goal to create a tree-lined, pedestrian-oriented campus.”
In addition to the building construction, site preparation for future long-term campus development has started in the field south of campus. Workers are installing fencing to mark the campus’ perimeter, and after all grading and leveling is complete, the land will be seeded with native grasses to prevent soil erosion.
With several projects in the works, divisions across campus are working to provide progress updates and notifications of possible impacts on traffic, parking and other matters.
Karin Groth, director of Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS), said her office is working with other departments to minimize disruptions. One challenge is notifying the campus in advance about parking lots affected by ongoing construction.
Library Lot 2, which is being used as a construction staging area and for contractor parking, is expected to return to use for faculty and staff with a preferred “A” parking permits when the Recreation North Center project is finished in late summer. Also, toward the end of this semester, the LeGrand Lot will lose up to 80 parking spaces to construction staging. The spaces are expected to return to use in late 2014.
Though much of the work is along or near Ranchers Road — a major campus roadway — officials hope to keep it as unimpeded as possible. Construction crews have been advised to arrive at campus before peak commute times, and major deliveries will be staged to minimize traffic impacts.
Members of the campus community with questions or concerns regarding parking may contact a member of the TAPS Advisory Committee, which includes representatives for faculty, staff, lecturers, and graduate and undergraduate students.
Physical Planning, Design and Construction (PPDC), meanwhile, recently launched a new website that includes project, construction and design updates and news and information on sustainability.
“The construction process will certainly impact campus life,” said Thomas Lollini, FAIA, campus architect and associate vice chancellor for PPDC. “But the benefits will be evident as each project expands our capacity to meet our mission and continue our progress in building the most sustainable campus in America.”