Since his first building proposal in 1985, College of Science and Mathematics Dean Phil Bailey has shown a penchant for creating things that will make a difference on campus.
Twenty-eight years later, the dean’s passion is still shown in the form of the upcoming opening of the Warren J. Baker Center for Science and Mathematics. There are some who refer to the imminent facilities as “Dean Bailey’s Kingdom.” Though Bailey himself will humbly deny that the site is his “kingdom,” it largely follows his vision for the Center for Science.
“My role in this was developing the vision, communicating the vision and helping with fundraising,” Bailey said. “The architects really hit it on the head in terms of the vision that we had.”
The new six-story Center for Science and Mathematics was proposed in 2010 and is nearly ready to open.
“The project is going well and the building will be open for classes in fall of 2013,” Director of Facilities Planning and Capital Projects Joel Neel said.
The building site, commonly referred to as Area 52 (in reference to its building number) has gained a presence on campus of curiosity and even annoyance to students wondering when it will be completed. According to Bailey, the construction will be done by May 15.
“It’ll take us the summer to move in,” Bailey said. “We probably won’t have faculty members move in until August. When they set the fall schedule it’ll be totally ready to go.”
The new building follows this vision in that the building is meant to be a place where learning and beauty collide, with a symbolic presence on campus.
“Science and mathematics are central, they’re the foundation to the polytechnic curriculum. The Center for Science and Mathematics is right at the geographic center of campus,” Bailey said. “It really leads symbolically from the foundation to the polytechnic colleges.”
However, this symbolic presence has also led to issues with the construction of the building. Senior General Superintendent Ken Cornell said its location is difficult from a construction perspective.
“The rock was probably one of the bigger challenges,” Cornell said. “But the biggest challenge was the location on the campus, because it’s the most central location and every student goes by here.”
Students are the most important consideration in the design of the building, according to Bailey. Its design allows for a great deal of study space in central atriums on the top four floors, in addition to outdoor and indoor terraces.
“The other vision is that this would be an elegant building built for students,” Bailey said. “What we’re talking about is four floors that could probably accommodate about 50 students apiece.”
The building is also meant to be a physical manifestation of the learning environment through its own architecture and engineering. Several decisions have been made to ensure it is as energy efficient as possible, including employing several large fans rather than hundreds of individual ones in laboratories and using “chill beams” that use water to cool and heat the building. Because of this, the building is expected to rank highly on the LEED rating system.
“Our LEED certification right now looks like it’s LEED Gold,” said Bailey, explaining that this is only below LEED platinum — an outstanding feat for a science building.
In addition, the building has already earned recognition for its sustainability. Neel confirmed the project will receive a $500,000 rebate from PG&E Savings by Design for its energy-efficient deign.
Beauty is also an important part of Bailey’s vision for the facilities. A garden will accompany the building, and Bailey is looking into objects of scientific artwork to furnish the study areas and hallways — inspiration for the work students will be doing in the building’s labs.
“It’s a science building, and you can combine science and art,” Bailey said. “For example, images from the Hubble Space telescope — I mean those are beautiful images.”
The project is mainly funded by state dollars — 100 million of them, to be exact — but was expanded by donors. Bailey said the $19 million offered by private donors also added to the incentive of the state to support the construction of the building.
“It took the private donations to do it,” Bailey said. “When people will donate to it, it gives the state of California — I don’t know if it’s confidence, incentive or pressure to do something.”
For the present, students can only wait until PASS opens for Fall 2013 to see if their classes will take place in the new facilities, and according to Bailey the classes held there will not be restricted to only math and science courses.
It’s up to anyone’s speculation what will come next. What is certain is that Bailey’s tenacity is an inspiration to those trying to follow through with a project. In his own words, “It’s so much easier not to do something than to do something.” But in Bailey’s case, doing something is about to make a difference to Cal Poly.