Thursday, March 17, 2022

Milestones signify progress of new UTSA science and engineering building

 The UTSA Science and Engineering Building in April 2019. Photo by Bartlett Cocke.

(May 22, 2019) – A constant fixture across the UTSA Main Campus skyline has vanished. Last weekend, construction crews disassembled the crane at the site of the new Science and Engineering Building (SEB). It’s a significant symbol of progress and growth for the project, which will transform the way the UTSA community learns and conducts research.

The crane has been removed from the SEB construction site.

UTSA broke ground on the SEB nearly two years ago. The $95 million structure, the largest construction project in UTSA history, will provide laboratory, classroom and collaborative space for UTSA’s academic and research programs in brain health, chemical engineering, biology and chemistry. The new facility is an important step for UTSA as the university moves forward to become a destination for research excellence.

For the past two years, crews have relied on the crane to haul heavy materials into the 160,349 square foot structure. With all four floors and mechanical penthouse laid and most of the heavy lifting complete, the crane is no longer needed.

“The staircases are up allowing for easier transportation and contractors can now bring everything into the building by hand or lift, said Jonathan Jarrell, senior project manager in the UTSA Office of Facilities. “This is a big step in the project.”

Work is progressing on the inside of the SEB.

Most of the work on the project will now take place on the inside. Crews will spend the summer finishing up systems installation, mechanical and electrical work, and plumbing. By the time students return to UTSA this fall, some of the brick and glass that outline the façade will be up and the building will be weather proof, a process called “drying in.”

“It’s a huge goal to meet this magic milestone,” Jarrell said. “This means we can begin putting up dry wall and preparing for interior finishes.”

It’s also important as crews work on the SEB’s key components: a Makerspace and distillation column.

Located on the ground floor, the innovative Makerspace will include collaboration and project assembly space, a design studio, a machine shop, a 3D printing room, and cutting-edge equipment that will elevate the student learning experience in the UTSA College of Engineering. In alignment with UTSA’s mission to become a model for student success, exposure to a Makerspace with ample resources will enhance students’ knowledge of the materials, tools, resources and environments they will encounter in the professional workplace.

“The Makerspace is the most advanced of the inside of the building when it comes to completion,” said Jarrell. “The walls are ready to be sheet rocked now. It’s moving along very well.”

Earlier this year, UTSA received a commitment of $500,000 from Ed Whitacre, former chairman of the Board of ExxonMobil, to acquire a 3D metal printer for the Makerspace. This integral component will accelerate and improve the process for students to complete senior design projects.

The building’s two-story distillation column has been ordered and installation will begin this fall. It will allow chemical engineering students to study different types of mixtures, just as practicing chemical engineers do in industrial facilities. The instrument was made possible by a gift from Bill and Margie Klesse through the Klesse Foundation. These gifts have immense impact on UTSA as an exemplar for strategic growth and innovative excellence.

To engage students across a variety of disciplines, a massive collaboration space also is in progress.

“It’s the most dramatic part of the building as you enter lower level. It extends up three floors and has full curtain wall glass bringing in a lot of light,” Jarrell said. “Our students are going to love it.”

SEB rendering by Alamo Architects and Treanor HL.

The SEB is on track for substantial completion by May 2020. Standard tests and furniture will be moved in over summer 2020, just in time for classes and research to begin for the Fall 2020 semester.

“The SEB helps round out the university initiatives with an emphasis on science, engineering and research. It’s a perfect fit for the growth at UTSA,” said Jarrell. “It’s built to last and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

This is one of many development projects planned for the Main and Downtown Campuses in support of the university’s 10-year vision, which includes plans to prepare for enrollment growth of 45,000 students by 2028.

Design plans are well underway for a new building at the Downtown Campus to house the National Security Collaboration Center and School of Data Science. Construction of the new facility is expected to begin in 2020, with an anticipated opening during the 2021-22 academic year.

New housing accommodations are also underway. Construction of Guadalupe Hall, a new residence hall for freshman, is slated to begin in fall 2019 with students expected to move in before the Fall 2021 semester. The Honors Residential College, an interactive, vibrant living/learning community for UTSA Honors College students, is in the planning stages. Plans for a new mixed-use neighborhood called Roadrunner Village will include housing for faculty, staff and upper-class students. UTSA is also making plans for Cattleman’s Square Residential Tower, a high rise housing option to serve the Downtown Campus community.

As part of the initiative to create a Student Success Center at UTSA, work is also progressing to build UTSA’s Academic Advising Complex—a central hub for the university’s academic advising services. The advising team is scheduled to move into the complex in February 2020.

Courtney Clevenger

Learn more about the UTSA Science and Engineering Building.

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