Cary Subel, an industrial engineering senior, uses his iPhone for most things, even to navigate Cal Poly’s campus via the Cal Poly application. The university app has a lot of campus related information, but Subel mostly uses the campus map feature.

Students must use detours, like this one located next to the Graphic Arts building, because major areas of the campus are blocked off. Other blocked-off areas include the area surrounding the Recreation Center and the former Science building. Victoria Zabel – Mustang Daily

“On the first day of school I gave myself 15 minutes to walk to class … it took me 30 with all of the re-routes and everything,” Subel said. “I saw buildings I never even knew existed. I guess the app wasn’t prepared for the construction on campus.”

For more than a year, the campus has been a construction zone because Cal Poly is in the process of completing four “capital projects.” Capital projects are handled by the Cal Poly facilities planning and capital projects department, and are defined as projects costing more than $400,000.

The four major projects currently under construction are the Center for Science, the Utilador Upgrade/TES Tank, the Recreation Center and the Meat Processing Unit. Expected finish dates range from as early as October 2011 (Meat Processing Unit), to Summer 2013 (Center for Science).

The projects were individually chosen for different reasons, said Joel Neel, senior associate director for facilities planning and capital projects at Cal Poly. Each project will enhance or upgrade buildings or systems already existing on campus.

The Recreation Center project was prioritized due to the high volume of use in the existing facility. Once construction is complete, the Recreation Center will be twice as big as the prior space.

The Center for Science project began because it was the next academic project on the Master Plan and in addition to that the building, which housed chemistry, physics and soil science, was more than 50 years old and in need of replacement, Neel said.

Marcus Jackson, Assistant Project Manager for O’Connor Construction Management, Inc., an outsourced construction management company, explained the TES Tank as a “giant thermos” that will enable Cal Poly to produce cold water during non-peak hours for use during the day once upgraded, subsequently making the campus more energy-efficient and sustainable. The upgrade is also necessary because the system was built before the university had expanded much and needed additional capacity.

The Meat Processing Center will be a replacement of an old facility that was removed to make room for the Poly Canyon housing facility. The project is being funded in large part by a private donation, Neel said.

Although the four capital projects currently consume a great amount of resources, Cal Poly is making an effort to promote sustainable business practices and lessen the environmental impact of the construction.

“The short-term benefit of ‘green’ projects is the monetary savings,” Jackson said. “Other benefits, like environmental health, will be the long-term benefits.”

Neel said both the Recreation Center and the Center for Science are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council website (which created LEED), “LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.”

LEED projects are ranked on a scale of 1-100 based on how “green” they are. Cal Poly expects that both the Recreation Center and the Center for Science will rank very high on that scale, Neel said. This will result in not only fiscal savings due to more energy efficient procedures (i.e. electricity), but also the promotion of safe and environmentally sound construction practices.

Whitney Sisler, graphic communication senior and Cal Poly soccer and track athlete, is happy Cal Poly is making an effort to go green. Sisler said she is not happy, however, with the inconvenience campus construction creates.

“The construction on campus makes it almost impossible to get around, especially on a bike,” Sisler said. “In the fall I had soccer practice until noon, then had a class that started at 12:10. Trying to get from one end of campus to the other in 10 minutes wasn’t possible because the (possible routes) look so long.”

Adding to Sisler’s frustration is what she said is a lack of communication regarding the projects.

“I don’t even know what ‘Area 52’ is,” she said. “The projects aren’t always explained in terms of how they will benefit me (or other students).”

Perry Rudd, project manager for facilities planning and capital projects at Cal Poly, said the facilities planning department has made a concerned effort to avoid issues like the one Sisler voiced.

“For the most part, everything has gone smoothly so far, in part because we have tried to make a proactive effort to let people know about inconveniences beforehand, to answer questions and respond to concerns and to provide re-routes,” Judd said. “Hopefully students and faculty recognize that.”

In addition to construction inconveniences, another major concern for students regarding the projects is how they are being funded.

“I’m definitely curious about how (Cal Poly is) paying for projects like this,” psychology senior Katrina Stern said. “I can’t even get the classes I need to graduate all the time because of budget cuts, but we have the money for multiple high priced projects?”

Neel said Stern’s concern is valid, but the money for the projects will not come from unplanned, additional expenses. The Recreation Center is funded by a $65 per quarter Student Union fee increase that was voted on by students in 2008. The Center for Science and Utilidor/TES Tank is funded by the State via the sale of “Lease Revenue Bonds” and the Meat Processing Center is a “gift-funded project,” Neel said.

Cal Poly’s commitment to sustainability, as well as the construction on campus, will continue as usual, at least for the next few years. The “cooperation of students and faculty as well as their ability to adapt” will be crucial to the success of the projects, Rudd said.

For more information about any of the capital projects please visit the facilities website.

Join the Conversation


  1. Great story Victoria, I enjoyed it and I feel like it’s an article many students need to read, so we all know what’s going on and what to expect! Well done.

  2. Great story Victoria, I enjoyed reading it and I feel like it’s an article many students need to read, so we all know what’s going on and what to expect! Well done.

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