Higher Education Case Study: Future Proof
By Anne Cosgrove
From the July 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
One of 72 districts that comprise the California Community Colleges system, Mt. San Jacinto College (MSJC) has experienced significant growth over the past decade. Situated east of Los Angeles, MSJC operates on four campuses—San Jacinto (the original, founded in 1963), Menifee Valley, Temecula Education Complex, and San Gorgonio Pass.
In recent years, the student population across all campuses has skyrocketed, with enrollment increasing 75% over the 10 year period ending in 2009. At its peak, there were about 26,000 students, and today there are 20,000. In 2010, MSJC received an $11.2 million state funded grant to accommodate the influx of students, and leadership there launched an extensive planning and development to ensure updated facilities were in place for the future.
Opened in 1990, the Menifee Valley campus is the second largest in the MSJC system, serving about 7,000 students each semester. As part of the college wide expansion plan, this campus saw the opening of a new Humanities & Social Sciences facility in September 2012. The new complex is made up of three, two story buildings and contains 33,885 square feet. Among the departments served are English, political science, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and communications.
With a striking exterior design and state-of-the-art teaching technology, the new facility is a welcome addition to the campus and its occupants. The former humanities and social sciences facilities consisted of eight portable structures, which contained classrooms and faculty offices. Today, students, faculty, and staff enjoy eight classrooms, seven science and computer labs, and two assembly spaces. There are also 16 faculty offices as well as several meeting rooms.
The MSJC project team worked closely with C.W. Driver, the construction manager on the job, to deliver a building that would advance the technological and sustainability profile of the college, while staying within budget. Also part of the design process was GKK Works, an Irvine, CA architectural firm hired by the college, along with input from facilities staff, faculty, students, and other stakeholders.
Mike Webster, a consultant to MSJC who headed up the project for the college, says, “There was a good deal of value engineering that took place toward the end of the design process once the facility programs had been identified. That’s one of the reasons it is a wood framed building. It took nearly three years to fund the building, but when it was finally funded, the economy had turned around to the point that the district received very good bids, and we actually sent money back to the state.”
The facilities team was involved in the project throughout, and Scott Kasper, facilities site supervisor for the campus, says, “The new Humanities & Social Sciences building has showed us some of the new ideas, materials, and processes that are available, and this has allowed us to integrate these items into new and even smaller projects we are executing.”
Technology To Support Growth
A hallmark of the new facility at the Menifee Valley campus is the prevalence of technology tools, for both educational purposes and facility management.
To encourage student participation and alternative learning styles, the buildings provide a variety of learning spaces in conjunction with standard classrooms, such as wet labs for hands-on applications, language labs with smaller interior rooms for group conversations, and a communications studies center where students can observe social interactions or participate in role playing. Also featured are four “smartboards,” which save lecture notes in electronic form to be posted on the MSJC website, further enhancing the learning experience.
Despite budget limitations, bid strategies and forward thinking enabled the team to include things that hadn’t been thought possible at the outset. For instance, an automated energy management system has improved efficiency and operations. And, the team took the opportunity to unify fire alarm systems from three existing buildings into one panel in this new facility.
Lynn Purper of C.W. Driver oversaw the project on-site, serving as project manager, and she kept an eye on how the college could enhance not only the humanities and social sciences building, but the campus overall.
“Even if the project couldn’t afford to install a whole system, where it made sense we installed infrastructure for future growth,” Purper explains. “For instance, as we were through the rough framing we started putting in the conduit (the backbone) for security cameras. There were cameras installed as part of this project, but the additional conduit we installed means it is there for future needs. We started that work early enough that there was a cost savings.”
Connected by covered walkways, the three buildings that make up the new Humanities & Social Sciences complex (also referred to as “the 400 building”) include several “green” aspects. Meanwhile, an outdoor plaza featuring drought tolerant plantings serves as a gathering space for students.
Commenting on the sustainability aspects, Kasper explains how the products that were specified are translating to benefits for his staff as well as occupants. “Items such as the no wax floor tiles and the carpet tiles make for easy cleaning and simple replacement in the case of a stain that can’t be removed” he says.
“And the large windows on the south side of the building aid in adding ambient light, which cuts down on electricity consumption. We also have a programmable timer for exterior lighting and some of the interior,” he continues. “Xeriscaping [the drought tolerant landscaping] makes for easy clean up and promotes water conservation. The addition of this building has prompted us to adjust some of our standards to more updated ones.”
In her work Purper regularly takes into account how the facilities staff and the occupants will use a building, once it has opened. With that in mind, she made the effort to talk with Kasper and his staff, the IT head, faculty, and end-users throughout the project design and construction.
Discussing her interaction with the facilities team, she says, “I showed them my submittal for the light fixtures for their insight before it was approved. And we talked about the paint and what type they normally use or would prefer.”
The Next Era
As MSJC continues to move forward with expansion plans, on each of its campuses, the new Humanities & Social Sciences facility is one of the more recent accomplishments—and one the college may look to for insight.
Webster shares, “The building is built in a way that it’s future proof, meaning any demand that the educational program and the faculty puts on the building, in the way of utilities or support from its infrastructure, is in place to handle it. The electrical systems were beefed up; the data systems were beefed up; the energy management control system is very sophisticated. The college will not have to remodel should they decide it needs more in addition to what is already there.”
Making It Work
“We are thrilled to provide the Menifee Valley Campus with a new, state-of-the-art humanities and social sciences facility that our students and faculty will enjoy for years to come,” says Webster, who noted that the last new building to open on the campus was the Business and Technology Center in the spring of 2008.
During the grand opening in the fall of 2012, MSJC President, Mary Lucas, recalled her days of attending the San Jacinto campus more than 40 years ago. “It was just four buildings, dirt and tumbleweed,” she said. “Now when I come onto this campus, I think the kids are so lucky.”