MERCED, CA — A year after the historic groundbreaking of the first University of California campus in the San Joaquin Valley, a topping out ceremony will be held at the UC Merced campus job site for the central plant on Thursday, November 6, 2003. The event will begin at 7:45 a.m. and last approximately 90 minutes.
To mark the occasion of building construction reaching its current highest pinnacle at 60 feet, UC Merced leaders and supporters will sign the uppermost steel beam of the structure. Afterward the beam will be raised and bolted onto the structure with the American flag and a potted tree placed on top. The live tree will later be planted during the landscaping phase of the project.
“Today we recognize the tremendous progress made by our construction teams in building the campus utility infrastructure,” said Vice Chancellor of Administration and Physical Planning Lindsay Desrochers. “The central plant is the core of that infrastructure, and we are celebrating rapid progress to its completion.”
The “topping out” of a building during the construction process celebrates a milestone in the construction of the building and celebrates the accomplishment of the construction teams. European and Asian in origin, the practice of topping out was brought to America by immigrants who became the country's contractors and steelworkers. Today, workers and their guests hold the celebration to mark the placement of the topmost member of a structure.
As part of an elaborate infrastructure project valued at $47 million, the energy-efficient central plant is designed to house the boilers for heating, hot water and steam distribution to buildings throughout the campus. Chillers and cooling towers, which facilitate the storage and distribution of cold water, will also be housed in the central plant. Overall square footage of the structure will be 25,900 square feet.
Other facets of the infrastructure project include a telecommunications building, reinforced concrete bridge, utility corridor and thermal energy storage tank. Site underground utility services are being constructed including piping for potable water, reclaimed water, sewage, chilled and heated water, gas, electrical conduits and wiring.
The first phase of construction of the UC Merced campus, totaling $280 million, is funded primarily through lease revenue bonds secured in 2001-02. The capital projects for the first phase of construction include site preparation, infrastructure and four buildings. Two of these buildings, the Kolligian Library and the housing/dining complex, have also recently begun vertical construction. The remaining facilities include the classroom building and the science and engineering building.
UC Merced, the 10th campus of the UC system and the first major research university to be built in the United States during the 21st century, is scheduled to open in fall 2005 with 1,000 students, ultimately growing to a student population of 25,000. The university has a special mission to serve the educational needs of San Joaquin Valley residents, and is already serving area students through a concurrent admissions program at three Valley community colleges and by offering UC summer session courses in Fresno, Bakersfield and Atwater. UC Merced currently employs approximately 165 educators and professionals who are working on developing the physical and academic infrastructure of the campus.