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Expect detours on Via Carta, the major pedestrian and vehicle pathway connecting North and South Perimeter roads, for the next three years as construction is completed for the new Center for Science and Mathematics.

Via Carta will remain closed to students to give access to trucks hauling materials in and out of the site. The fences also keep pedestrians safe as the construction team removes hazardous materials from the existing building.

Construction currently occupies most of the College of Science and Mathematics. Phil Bailey, the dean of the college, has had the task of acclimating students, staff and faculty to the changes the campus will undergo.

“If you were to drag your finger around the entire perimeter of the Spider Building, you will have walked 1 and 1/8 miles,” Bailey said.

Bailey calls the accommodations made to classrooms in response to the construction the “Big Squeeze.” The college needed to relocate 10 science labs from the previous building 52 to alternative buildings, including the Fischer Science and Graphic Arts buildings. Cal Poly’s decreased enrollment helped make this transition more manageable as the university has fewer students to accommodate, Bailey said.

The college also has the option, if necessary, to offer more lab classes to students. The university, however, has not yet needed to do so, he said.

The building was designed in the ’50s when Cal Poly had a student body of around 5,000 students. Today, Cal Poly’s student body exceeds 19,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

“The university is really short of classrooms,” Bailey said.

The new Center for Science and Mathematics will provide the campus with 200,000 square feet of workable space for classrooms, labs, offices and studying. The previous building was 46,200 square feet.

“We said we wanted room for students and we’re going to get it,” Bailey said.

Classrooms will be constructed to integrate lecture and lab so that students can experience both in one class period. The “studio classrooms” will reduce the number of hours students are assigned to attend class, Bailey said. The building will also be fully certified by the Leadership for Environmental and Energy Design (LEED).

Contractors are hoping to achieve Gold LEED Certification, an honor that signifies the building’s design is environmentally sustainable across fields including water, energy, atmosphere, resource and transportation efficiency.

The construction, led by Zimmer Gunsul & Frasca Architects, is currently removing hazardous material from the building and relocating 14 trees.

“We’re right on schedule right now,” said Pamela Timm, project information coordinator for the Center for Science and Math.

The team has already completed construction of a fiber-optic building hub, the switchboard for the Center for Science and Math’s electronic operations that now stands just north of Engineering East.

An upgrade to the Central Plant also began this month. The construction team is installing increased chiller capacity for the new building’s air-conditioning unit and completing the campus chilled-water loop.

Bailey said the builders anticipate six months of moving dirt in mid-January. In late summer, however, steel frames for the building will go up on the construction site and the Center for Science and Math will start to take shape.

For Cal Poly’s Facilities Planning and Capital Projects, the completion of the building will be an expensive accomplishment for the university, said Joel Neel, associate director of Facilities Planning and Capital Projects.

“The Center for Science and Math is the largest academic project in terms of dollars in the history of Cal Poly,” he said.

The proposal received roughly 25 percent, or $113 million, of the state’s budget for improvements to the California State University system for 2010.

“It may be costly, but we need the new equipment,” Timm said. “Every student will utilize it.”

Science and mathematics make up the foundation of the polytechnic curriculum, according to the website for the College of Science and Math. Students of all majors are expected to have a class in the new building.

This article was written by Hope Hanselman

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