UC Merced readies new $88 million science hub

08/20/2014 8:45 PM

08/21/2014 10:27 AM

Boxes of chemicals, microscopes still under their covers and office equipment are being carried into a new UC Merced building this week as professors and laboratory technicians prepare for a new semester.

The $88 million Science and Engineering 2 building will be a new home for many science, technology, engineering and math students – the majority of the student body – as well as professors and their lab technicians. It will begin seeing students when classes resume Aug. 28.

Because of its ability to save water and energy, the building is also is expected to earn a platinum LEED green-building certification, the highest rating certified on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ratings system.

Mark Maxwell, the university’s assistant director of construction and sustainability, has said a number of methods used during construction allow contractors to be efficient with energy and water while using recycled building materials.

The 102,000-square-foot building includes four teaching labs, a study room, 12 workstations for faculty and staff, and 75 faculty offices. It is designed to cut energy use by 39 percent compared with other structures of the same size in the state – an energy savings of about $170,000 a year.

The three-story structure’s roof is fitted with 52-kilowatt photovoltaic solar panels and is coated with a white membrane that reflects light and keeps the building cool. Windows are glazed with a coating that reduces heat from direct sunlight but allows natural lighting for those inside. Contractors also used a computer program to best place the shades on the outside of the building.

Materials inside the building are made of recycled components where possible, according to Maxwell. Ceiling tiles are made of about 77 percent recycled newspapers and phone books, carpet is 40 percent recycled soda bottles and insulation is 90 percent recycled rock and blast furnace slag.

More than 90 percent of castoff construction materials will be diverted from the landfill. The wood becomes mulch; the drywall, a fertilizer; and metal is melted down for reuse.

The university has a goal to reach its “triple net zero” commitment by 2020. The idea is to consume zero net energy through efficiency and renewable energy production, produce zero landfill waste and prevent as much carbon emission as the university produces.

The new building’s first floor will mostly house laboratories, which are set up for students to work in teams of four. The basement has also been designed to regulate temperature changes and reduce vibration, setting up the ideal space for sensitive atomic force microscopes.

Dan Hirleman, dean of UC Merced’s School of Engineering, has called the building a “world-class facility.”

Space is also an issue at UC Merced. The university has purposely slowed its enrollment growth to give the buildings on campus time to catch up, though applications for admission continue to rise each year. Another complete building might help to alleviate the crowded campus.

Officials say the school, which expects about 6,360 students for 2014-15, is on track to reach the 2020 Project goal of 10,000 enrolled by 2020.

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