Expansion Abounds Across Campuses in North Carolina

Mon February 23, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Ronald Page

Construction sites can be seen everywhere on university and college campuses in North Carolina –– a building bonanza designed to ease growing pains by expanding campuses and renovating outdated buildings to meet the demands of the twenty-first century.

The voters of North Carolina approved a $3.1 billion Higher Education Bond Referendum in 2000 that identified existing building deficiencies, facility modernization requirements and campus needs based on anticipated enrollment growth for the decades ahead at the state’s 16 public universities and 59 community colleges.

An example is North Carolina State University. Today, wherever you look on the main campus and the adjoining Centennial Campus, work crews are busy amid the sights and sounds of massive cranes, jackhammers, bulldozers, steamrollers, backhoes, forklifts, tractors and trucks laden with steel girders.

It’s being called Renovating while Educating.

At NCSU, a claw-like demolition machine tears at the old Riddick Stadium, creating mountains of concrete rubble where there once were stands. Rent-a-fences are everywhere. Parking on campus has become a competitive game as construction sites emerge.

Nearing completion, on the other hand, is the Undergraduate Science Teaching Lab. It has a 21st century look, with glass atrium atop a brick and concrete columned building.

It replaces Withers Hall, a 1940s lab building that will be converted into classrooms with an $11 million renovation. Withers was a prime symbol for the UNC systems outdated science facilities. Legislators were led through the labs, where they were told the class size had to be cut in half to ensure students’ safety.

Keeping track of construction has led to the installation of special software to monitor the thousands of details. As with the University of North Carolina, Appalachian State, North Carolina Central University and others, planners must not only manage complex building schedules, but also have to find temporary space and move students safely around fences, detours and road closings.

Said N.C. State architect Mike Harwood: “It’s like playing three-dimensional chess.”

When the projects are completed, however, school officials hope to see updated facilities and sparkling new campuses. N.C. State Chancellor Marye Anne Fox likened it to having a baby. “It’s a long period coming and then when it’s here, it’s wonderful.”

For instance, the David Clark Laboratories, built in 1939, was considered one of the most outdated, cramped and inadequate research teaching facilities on campus. Groundbreaking took place Oct.16, 2003, on a $22 million renovation and expansion. Some 46,000-sq. ft. (4,273.5 sq m) of space will be added to house the Department of Zoology and the Biological Sciences Program.

Groundbreaking was held a week later for the second phase of the College of Engineering Complex. The new building will provide more than 175,000 sq. ft. (16,258 sq m) of space to house computer science and electrical engineering.

Of the more than two dozen projects undertaken at N.C. State, two examples that demonstrate the current planning processes include the Undergraduate Science Teaching Lab (USTL) on the North Campus and the Flex Laboratory building on the South Campus. The USTL project not only adds new buildings, but also includes a new outdoor gathering space. The entire project consists of the main lab building, improvements to David Clark Lab, eight greenhouses, chilled water supply and updating the Flex Laboratory Building for Zoology’s swing space and the courtyard.

The main building, scheduled for occupancy in the spring of 2004, will have 70,700 sq. ft. (6,568.2 sq m) of instructional laboratories and classrooms for chemistry and physics and 40,500 sq. ft. (3,762.6 sq m) of instructional laboratories and classrooms for horticultural science. The new facility is expected to have a major impact on undergraduate science education at N.C. State.

The Flex Lab Building will provide swing space for a number of academic and administrative functions. It will contain ten 5,000 sq. ft. (464.5 sq m) units each with its own entry, rest rooms, electrical power and heating and cooling systems. The units can be used individually or together to form a larger space if desired.

The concept of this flexible building arose when both the need and expense of providing temporary swing space was fully identified. Temporary measures were considered, such as trailers, but were rejected as too expensive. The Flex Building will provide swing space in the short term. When the Bond Projects are completed, the University will retain an important asset that will be used for research laboratory space.

Yet, such major construction can cause its own problems, especially after rain and then the mud … and, when the mud dries out, dust becomes the problem.

So, since the bond referendum program has five years remaining, University construction engineers have increased the surveillance of construction sites to ensure compliance with the State’s sediment and erosion control laws.

The N.C. State Storm Water Management Committee has established an “A-Team” to study and develop innovative means to improve erosion and sedimentation issues on campus. Team members are working together with other experts in the University to strengthen contractor requirements with regard to sediment and erosion control. The revised requirements will embrace today’s technology while balancing the benefits of new requirements against cost, enforceability, and practicality of implementation.