UC Merced's $175 million in projects include housing, classrooms

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 9, 2012 

UC Merced is growing up -- and out.

Several new buildings, which will pop up on campus over the next two years, are expected to generate local construction jobs.

"It's a great step forward in our overall programming, adding 25 percent to our space inventory," said Thomas Lollini, campus architect and associate vice chancellor for physical planning, design and construction. "We are actually operating a utilization rate that's over 100 percent. This will provide some much-needed space."

An estimated 50 jobs will be generated per $1 million of construction. That means about 8,750 direct and indirect jobs would be created in total, with many of them being local, according to project documents.

For example, a total of 27 construction firms have contracted with the university for the Housing 4 project, and 17 of those firms are from the Central Valley, said Patti Waid, UC Merced spokeswoman. In addition, 35 firms have been given contracts for the Science and Engineering Building 2 project, and 21 of those firms are from the Central Valley.

The estimated cost for the five projects that are under way is about $175 million. The projects include the $88.8 million Science and Engineering Building 2 and a $4.5 million Site and Infrastructure Phase 4, which are state-funded projects, Lollini said.

The other projects, such as the Housing 4, Recreation Center North and the Student Services Building, are all being funded by nonstate funding sources such as student fees and housing payments.

The university also will help fund the Student Services Building, he said.

Officials will break ground on the 100,000- square-foot Science and Engineering Building 2 sometime in the next 45 days, Lollini said. The building will be behind the Science and Engineering Building 1, and it's slated to open in fall 2014.

The $49.7 million, 110,000-square-foot Housing 4 unit will be a 500-bed, five-story building that's going up north of Housing 3, Lollini said. Construction is in progress, and the unit is expected to open in summer 2013.

The $10.2 million Recreation Center North also is under construction. "They've already done the foundations and the retaining walls," Lollini said.

That will be a 20,000-square-foot, two-story building featuring multipurpose rooms and offices on the upper level. On the first level, it will expand the cardio room and will include more offices. Lollini said the building also will allow university officials to double the size of the wellness program on campus.

Officials hope to open the lower level of the building in the fall. The second level would open a few months later.

The fourth project is the 30,000-square-foot, $19.8 million Student Services Building, which will house instructional space and seminar tutorial rooms, and provide space for student services and graduate programs, Lollini said. That building will be at the end of Scholars Lane.

"It will be a place of very extensive student activity," he said.

Construction of that building is scheduled to begin in May, and officials hope one portion of the building -- a one-story pavilion -- will open for use in fall 2013, Lol-lini said.

The last project, Site and Infrastructure Phase 4, will improve some classrooms and make mechanical improvements to the Central Tech Communications building.

Lollini said the construction in terms of the campus's current footprint isn't a significant difference. However, those buildings will provide housing, labs, rooms, multipurpose rooms, instructional space and student activity space that the university needs with its enrollment of 5,198 students.

Officials will continue to follow current green building standards. Lollini said officials hope to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification, which is the highest rating for green buildings, for all the new projects.

The campus has a policy to have every building achieve LEED Gold certification, which is a rating just below Platinum, he said.

"We established a series of benchmarks, and we have been increasing our standards against those benchmarks," Lollini said.

Only the Valley Terraces has a LEED Silver certification.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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