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Growth sparks excitement at Polytechnic campus


November 08, 2006

When David Schwalm learned that Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Arizona Legislature appropriated money to fund the debt service on $103 million to pay for the construction of new facilities on ASU's Polytechnic campus, he was looking at the enrollment growth figures for the fall 2006 semester and wondering where he was going to put all of those students.

The new complexes of buildings at the Polytechnic campus are designed to create indoor and outdoor spaces and take into consideration the desert climate. They will be “green” buildings that should meet the standards for the LEED silver certificate. At least one building will incorporate an array of solar panels to generate electricity.

“When I learned that the funds had finally been approved, I realized that our dream of transforming this former Air Force base into a university campus with real university buildings was going to come true,” says Schwalm, ASU vice provost of academic programs and services for the campus.

The new complex of buildings will be the largest project undertaken to date on the campus. The new facilities will be instructional buildings, filled with faculty and staff offices, classrooms and teaching laboratories, all of which will help to better accommodate the rapidly growing number of faculty and students on the Polytechnic campus.

“At the present time, we are totally out of faculty offices, and we are currently housing 15 to 20 faculty in the first floor of one of our residence halls,” Schwalm says. “We also are at maximum utilization of our classrooms, and we need more specialized classrooms to serve some of our programs, like our new engineering program.”

Planning for the new facilities began in fall 2005 in anticipation of future growth, as well as future funding. Conversations among the university architects, Polytechnic campus administrators and the faculty took place often, fitting the need for new instructional space into the master plan for the campus.

Initially, the group began to plan for 300,000 square feet of new space. Once the funds were allocated and the architects and contractors were selected in July, the planning process intensified.

Then reality set in.

“With rising building costs, the scope of the project contracted a bit,” Schwalm says. “We are now planning for 240,000 gross square feet. We have made a special effort to increase the ratio of net square feet to gross square feet by creating useful outdoor space, as well as indoor space. We expect the net to be greater than the usual 65 percent of the gross.”

The Architects of Record RSP Architects, the Design Architect Lake/Flato and the contractor DPR Construction have designed three “complexes” of buildings. Two of the three complexes will be located directly north of the Agribusiness Center and the new Engineering Studio, resulting in the loss of parking lots north of those two facilities, and the demolition of one older facility, which currently is the College of Science and Technology's dean's office. An existing auditorium, with a capacity for 500 people, will be remodeled and incorporated into the newer structures.

In addition, the former dining hall, east of Wanner and Sutton Halls, will be razed to make room for the third complex. It will house faculty in education, arts and humanities, and social sciences. This complex also will have a “black box” theater and special facilities to support dance, drawing and painting.

To replace the lost parking spaces, plans call for an extension of the parking lot to the south of the Agribusiness and Technology centers and Engineering Studio.

“We will have enough parking spaces to accommodate students, faculty and staff, though some may have to walk slightly further to classes or offices,” Schwalm says. “Pedestrian patterns will be disrupted by the construction, but the contractors have developed a logistics plan to ensure that pedestrians have safe, well-lit and reasonably direct walking routes to campus buildings.”

It's anticipated that the facilities will be sufficient to support about 10,000 students, an enrollment figure that is expected to be met by 2012. Occupancy of the new buildings is scheduled for June 1, 2008.