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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
October 18, 2004
Volume 40, Number 3

Planned Centennial Engineering Center to get boost from Bond ‘B’
Facilities need replacing after half-century


By Tamara Williams

A rendering of the Centennial Engineering Center by architect Van H. Gilbert.Peeling paint. Poor ventilation. Rusty pipes and old wiring. A tour of Wagner Hall, which houses UNM Civil Engineering Department laboratories and classrooms, reveals a tired old building.

“This is a 50-plus year old building that is no longer compliant with building standards and codes,” explained Tim J. Ward, professor and chair of Civil Engineering.

Costs to maintain the old building are staggering, he said. “Campus wide, the average cost to maintain a building is $1.70 per square foot. With this building, it costs nearly three times that much — $4.50 per square foot.”

A look around CE labs shows lots of activity, as about one-fifth of CE students work in research labs by their senior year. Projects are in full swing despite run-down conditions. Labs have little storage space and are cluttered.

“The labs here are worse than the ones I used to see going to school in the late ‘60s,” Ward said.

Hope is on the horizon. A new Centennial Engineering Center has been designed. The 139,500 square foot facility will house classrooms, laboratories, student and faculty spaces and School of Engineering administrative offices. A new building will facilitate ongoing research, including methods of community water arsenic removal, Rio Grande restoration and cancer research.

Planning for the new building has been in the works for about three years. Four wings will be arranged around a center courtyard. The project is estimated to cost $30 million. Four million dollars for the new building is requested from General Obligation Bond “B” for Education, which provides $94.6 million for capital improvements in New Mexico. Residents vote on Bond B in the general election (see story on page one).
That a civil engineering building is in such bad shape is ironic. Civil engineers design and supervise construction of buildings, roads, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and water supply and sewage systems.

About two-thirds of UNM’s CE students remain in the state after graduation, working in state and federal agencies, in small and large towns, for the Department of Transportation and the Air Force research lab.

Phase one of the new center will house Civil Engineering. The CEC will be a “living lab” and a “smart building,” which will monitor the temperature, as well as stress and strain on the facility. It features wireless classrooms with Internet conferencing facilities and six labs: environmental engineering, soil mechanics, structural mechanics, hydraulics, asphalt and concrete testing. Labs will be state-of-the-art, with high bays for big experiments, and high-pressure systems and incubators for testing materials.

Ward anticipates an increase in enrollment of CE students with the advent of the new building. Better facilities will also attract high-quality faculty.

The new building will make an architectural, technological statement for UNM. “This building is critical to educating our future civil engineers, who will make an impact on the quality of life for people in New Mexico,” Ward said.