Engineering Center Renovation

The Engineering Center has a new face with the start of the new academic year

Background

The Engineering Center is like a second home to most engineering students at the University of Colorado Boulder. Throughout their undergraduate career, students spend countless hours in this building engaged in activities ranging from classes to group projects. Over the past decades, the building has been through many changes, including the addition of the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory (ITLL) and the Discovery Learning Center (DLC) and, most recently, the renovation of Engineering Center lobby.

The New Lobby

Plans for the million-dollar project started in January 2017 when new dean, Bobby Braun, decided the Engineering Center needed a fresh look to make it more welcoming. In order to get get student feedback for the project, a  group of students from a writing and rhetoric class conducted a survey as part of their class, questioning students about the remodel. Those who took the survey proposed a new layout and updated furniture, which were ideas implemented in the design. Staff and faculty in the College of Engineering then looked at renderings of layouts and designs and provided additional feedback.

After finalizing the plan and the layout for the renovation, the college began looking for constructors. The college budgeted the project for a little less than $1.3 million. Sun Construction was selected to take on the project in late April and immediately began ordering equipment. Construction started in May as soon as the Spring semester was completed.

The building process spanned the entire summer and part of the Fall semester, the result being a modern and more welcoming space, which students and faculty approved of. One of the most noticeable changes is the relocation of the cafe. “[Having the cafe] near the entrance was a terrible traffic jam,” Assistant Dean for Program and Engagement Doug Smith said. The cafe line could sometimes extend down the hallway through the intersection, which prevented people from passing through. For this reason, the renovation included the relocation of the cafe away from intersecting hallways to prevent blockage. The Engineering Center also added another cafe at the south entrance, again with traffic concerns in mind: splitting the line in two separate areas has helped to minimize lines, preventing people from blocking the hallways.

Another major change to the lobby is the bathrooms, which were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some students think that the previous bathrooms were small and cramped, and consider the current ones an improvement; the renovated bathrooms are more spacious and modern, and include additional stalls. One of the challenges during the renovation was to find a space for the toilet waste drainage. Upon inspection, the construction team found a cavity in the wall behind the elevators which was where the plumbing was relocated.

In addition to these significant changes, the renovation has also given the Engineering Center a new, more modern look. “It feels less dungeon-ey in the lobby area,” one student said. Changes include new lighting in the lobby, thermal insulator windows and new flooring and furniture.

Many people, especially students, think that the lobby’s functionality has also improved as a result of the renovation. Before the renovation, students recommended larger tables for the new lobby since people are generally unwilling to join a stranger at a smaller table. This suggestion has proven effective as students have filled and utilized the empty table space. In addition, the newly-installed countertop space has provided more study areas.

Overall, the feedback received about the renovation has been positive, indicating that the project was a success. Smith said that the next summer project will be to remodel the Dean’s suite, which means that there will be many faculty and staff temporarily relocated to the new and improved lobby.

– Amy Santoso

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