By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the July 2012 issue of Facility Executive
The University of Maryland University College (UMUC) serves more than 92,000 undergraduate and graduate students at 150 locations around the world as well as online. Headquartered in Adelphi, MD, UMUC is one of 11 accredited, degree granting institutions of the University System of Maryland. Founded in 1947, its focus is on providing higher education and professional development to adult students.
Despite having a global reach, part of UMUC’s success depends on having a central location for students to attend class and tend to administrative business. To support the growth of the student body in recent years—in the Maryland region and beyond, UMUC leadership sought to create additional classroom space while consolidating student services and academic departments. As a result, in April 2009, UMUC opened its newly renovated facility in Largo, MD, located about 15 miles from the school’s headquarters.
A Chat With George Trujillo
The Academic Center at Largo now serves as the hub of academic operations for UMUC. On a given day, about 250 students use the facility. In addition to academic spaces—traditional classrooms, a testing center, computer labs, and an auditorium, the 236,000 square foot facility houses all undergraduate and graduate programs and related services.
Other offices and services located in the building are financial aid, enrollment management, student affairs, information and library services, career services, faculty affairs, instructional services and support, security studies, Department of Defense relations, and the Center for Intellectual Property.
Most faculty and staff had been working in leased space in different locations, and bringing them together under one roof not only created a sense of unity but also allowed the university to terminate those leases.
George Trujillo, assistant vice president of facilities management at UMUC since 2005, oversaw the project and explains, “We needed more space, and we also wanted to upgrade our facilities. The initial plan was to construct a new building, and we looked in Adelphi, but we were not able to find a suitable property. When we visited this building, we liked it because it was the right size, was in a good market, and the structure itself had some very good bones to it.”
Now about 650 employees work under one roof in the upgraded facility. “One thing we did with this move was to bring all furniture up to the same standard,” notes Trujillo. “It took us a long time, but we finally have a standard, which makes the purchasing and replacement a much easier process for our department.”
Tight Schedule, Careful Planning
Renovating an existing building can often present surprises and delays if the project team discovers unknown conditions and characteristics along the way. These surprises were minimized when UMUC hired DNC Architects to provide architectural and design services for the project. The Rockville, MD firm was the original designer of the building when it was constructed in the 1980s as a corporate headquarters for a hardware company, so they brought history and familiarity to the project.
Anthony Consoli, AIA, LEED AP, project architect/senior designer at DNC Architects, was the project executive for the Academic Center at Largo. The firm’s knowledge of the building was a resource that Trujillo and the rest of the team drew upon, especially because of the tight timeline.
Explains Trujillo, “We were having a huge space issue in terms of employee facilities, and we were growing. It was a nine month schedule from start of design to completion of construction. To maintain the tight schedule, the renovation was conducted in phases.” Certain long lead items could be ordered by the general contractor and put in progress while the team planned other areas.
Commenting on the project timeline, Susan Malamud, IIDA, LEED AP, director of interior design for DNC Architects, says, “I was focused on the interior programming and planning, and Anthony managed the engineering issues to make sure we kept the interior work in line with the schedule. It was an overlapping effort in each phase. It was not an easy process, but George was a very strong leader. He was able to get the information that we needed and relay it to us so we could move very quickly.”
An additional layer of the project was the university’s goal of achieving LEED Silver certification for the building. This was the second LEED endeavor for UMUC and for Trujillo. In 2005, he worked on a 100,000 square foot addition to the university’s conference center located near College Park, MD, which earned LEED Certified status.
“We set LEED Silver as our goal for the Academic Center at Largo,” says Trujillo, “and, ultimately we were awarded LEED Gold in June 2010. UMUC is a signatory to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, and we take that into account in all of our construction and operations decisions.”
A feature original to the building, and one that UMUC capitalized upon—for both aesthetics and functionality—was a prominent atrium inside the main entrance. At about 250′ long, the space not only allows an abundance of daylight to enter the building, but it also offered the opportunity to create lounge areas for occupants to study, collaborate, and socialize.
At either end of the atrium are grand open staircases, and placing seating areas near each of these gave prominence to the stairways. Says Malamud, “The university wanted lounge areas so people could work in small clusters when desired. So there are areas in each of the atriums where students and faculty can work. That design is consistent on the upper floors.”
Notes Consoli, “This created pockets for conferencing and places for people to mingle. Before moving into the building, staff in many of the departments had worked in separate buildings, and now they can take advantage of synergies between their groups.”
For faculty and other employee workstations, UMUC made the move to open spaces for many, positioning enclosed offices toward the core of the building. Trujillo explains, “We thought the interior of the building should be opened up in terms of daylight, so we pushed the offices as much as possible away from windows and set them more toward the center of the building. We wanted to allow daylight to travel as far into the building as we could.”
Notes Malamud, “George was a very strong believer in trying to provide the maximum amount of natural daylight. It is a very large building, and there are a lot of workstations. The aim was to make it feel light and bright. We always kept in mind that we wanted people to see light from every corridor and workstation. In the few locations where there are closed offices in front of windows we included clerestory windows to bring in light.”
When it came to the artificial lighting, the team made energy efficient choices that included fluorescent lamps (T5 and T8), as well as LED lighting in certain areas. Says Trujillo, “With the T5 fixtures, we considered using either light sensors or daylight harvesting to reduce energy use. We found that harvesting wouldn’t work for us; the savings we would achieve did not justify the cost. So we chose to install sensors throughout the building, and we’ve achieved expected savings.”
The Academic Center at Largo marked a first for Trujillo in that the facility incorporates LED lighting. Outside, the parking lot was outfitted with fixtures that dim down to 30% full illumination when no movement is detected for a period of time.
“And if somebody enters the area, the lights come back to 100% very gradually,” says Trujillo. “I’ve looked at LEDs over the years, and appearance wise, they always seemed to be a little too blue. But they’ve come a long way, and they made sense for this building in the parking lot and key places inside. LED light should last 10 years, so in terms of maintenance costs, it can be a good return on investment if you’re looking at it long-term. We’re not looking to sell this facility, so it made sense.”
Building Systems Up To Speed
Transforming the building into an energy efficient, comfortable facility for UMUC’s students and employees required evaluating existing building systems and materials along with designing and configuring spaces that would facilitate the needs of occupants.
Commenting on the building systems Trujillo says, “We analyzed all the equipment to determine what to keep and what to replace. In the meantime, we had the goal of LEED certification as the backdrop and needed to consider how our decision would impact that pursuit.”
He explains, “We retained some of the existing HVAC equipment. For instance, the VAV [variable air volume] boxes were in very good shape, so we added a building management system which enabled us to operate those boxes much more efficiently.”
Trujillo continues, “One of the changes we made was to replace individual cooling units located on all levels of the building. Now we have a central chiller plant. This provided significant savings on electricity while offering a better climate for occupants. We installed new chillers, air handlers, and generators.”
As the building neared opening day, Trujillo and the team made commissioning the building systems a significant focus. “We performed heavy commissioning to ensure all the systems were operating as they were supposed to,” he says. “Commissioning is very important, and so is training engineering staff so they can inspect a unit and know how it is supposed to be operating.”
Once the building was in operation Trujillo encountered a minor problem with cooling in the atrium. Several cooling units needed to be added to the system, but that has been the only significant change required post-renovation.
“You always have to tweak a facility after opening,” says Trujillo, “but now we have one or two temperature complaints a week. For a building this size, that’s not much. A lot of that success is attributed to training the staff well. But this is also one of the best buildings I’ve worked on during my 30 year career.”
Having been an operating engineer prior to joining UMUC’s facilities management department, Trujillo notes that he has identified best practices over the years and incorporates them into the buildings he now manages. He also points to the working relationship with DNC Architects as a significant boost to reaching the goals set for the building.
Referring to the LEED pursuit, Trujillo explains the team did not include certain strategies just for the sake of “checking a box” towards certification. “For example, carbon dioxide sensors are a really good idea that some people might not use, but we use them,” he says. “On the other hand, I wouldn’t put electric vehicle charging stations in the parking lot here, because that technology doesn’t have a lot of use in this area—at least it didn’t when we were doing the project.”
Among the numerous things Trujillo notes about the Academic Center at Largo was a new approach to conference rooms. Primarily used by faculty, the conference rooms vary in size, including three outfitted with videoconferencing capabilities.
“Instead of allocating a dedicated conference room, or rooms, to each department, these are communal spaces now,” explains Trujillo. “This was my first project incorporating shared conference rooms, and it has worked out very well.”
This approach reduced the square footage for conference rooms to about one third of what the university had previously. “We calculated the number of rooms we thought would be needed and sited them throughout the building,” explains Trujillo. “And now, instead of some rooms sitting empty for four days out of the week, these are accessible to everyone. We use an automated scheduling system for staff to make reservations and so we can track usage. I have yet to hear about any conflicts with regard to getting a room scheduled.”
Meanwhile, security was an area where Trujillo drew on past practices. The building is open from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm (sometimes later) Monday through Friday, and it is in operation during the day on Saturdays.
The university had adopted the use of card keys for access to all of its facilities, and at the time, the Academic Center at Largo was the last facility to incorporate this type of system. (In facility projects planned since, UMUC continues to implement card keys.)
Explains Trujillo, “The building is locked during off hours, and people must have the card key to gain access. During main operating hours, people can come through the main entrance, but they need to stop at a manned security station. When entering the student entrance, a person must also stop at a security station. The main thing was to monitor who is penetrating that first area, and it has worked very well. Every year, we need to show compliance with the [Jeanne] Clery Act, and [we have found] it’s our safest facility.”
With overlapping project deadlines and specific demands for the facility, Trujillo and the DNC Architects team worked closely and consistently to avoid delays as much as possible. Says Trujillo, “A big factor to the success was very open communication. We could sit at a meeting and make design changes and work together to get what was really the best thing for everybody. We developed a relationship as peers. Also, I work very closely with [UMUC] senior management, and I was able to communicate information and get approvals quickly.”
Since the Academic Center at Largo opened, Trujillo has kept busy with the continuing facility upgrades. In early 2012, a newly renovated building opened across the street, and that building is also LEED Gold certified. Meanwhile, the university’s administration office in Adelphi has also been revamped. Currently, a plan to renovate that conference center that achieved LEED certification in 2004 is underway.
Reflecting on the impact of the Academic Center at Largo as well as the subsequent projects, Trujillo says, “We’ve really transformed the facilities here at the university.” Whether on-site or in a remote location, students at UMUC benefit from these resources.
Name of Facility: Academic Center at Largo at University of Maryland University College (UMUC). Type of Facility: Existing. Function of Facility: Higher education. Location: Largo, MD. Square Footage: 236,000. Budget: $10 Million (construction and infrastructure). Project Timetable: August 2008 to April 2009. Cost Per Square Foot: $45.50. Facility Owner: UMUC. In-House Facility Management: George Trujillo, associate vice president of facilities; Kestutis Vaitkus, assistant vice president. Architect/Interior Designer: DNC Architects. General Contractor/Construction Managers: Plano-Coudon, LLC; Whiting-Turner Contracting Company. Electrical/Mechanical Engineer: Meta Engineers. Structural Engineer: SK&A Engineers. Landscape Architect: Slater and Associates. LEED Consultants: EMO Energy Solutions LLC; GreenShape LLC.
Furnishings: David Edward (lobby seating); Maryland Correctional Enterprises (seating, tables); OEI with Mayer Fabrics. Flooring: Armstrong; Ceramiche Caesar; Crossville Ceramics; C/S Group Pedimat; Ergon Ceramics; Mannington; Roppe. Carpet: Bolyu; Interface Carpets; Lees Carpet; Masland Contract; Pacific Crest Carpets; Patcraft; Tandus. Ceilings: Armstrong. Paint: Benjamin Moore; Senza Fine Decorative Coating; Sherwin-Williams; Zolatone by Polomyx. Wallcovering: 3Form; Carnegie Fabric; Innovations; Lanark/Eykon; Wolf Gordon/York Contract. Movable Walls: Hufcor. Building Management System/Services: Belimo; TAC; Teletrol. CMMS Software: Maximo. Security System Components: Altronix; Pelco. Fire System Components: Adcock’s Electric Alarms & Control; Notifier; QED. Lighting Products: Array LED (PAR lamps); Baldinger; Beta LED; Bruck; Lightolier; Lithonia Lighting; Lutron; Philips Advance; Sylvania; WattStopper Legrand. HVAC Equipment: ABB; Aquaazul; Bell & Gossett; Danfoss; Double Star; Greenheck; LMI Liquitron; McQuay; Titan; Tranter. Plumbing Equipment: Armstrong domestic water pump system with Siemens Simatic VFD controls; Falcon Waterfree; Kohler; Sloan. Power Supply Equipment: Alban; ASCO; Caterpillar; GE. IT Infrastructure: (power) Alban Engine Power Systems/Caterpillar; ASCO; Emerson Network Power/Liebert. (HVAC) Liebert. Roofing: Soprafix/Sopralene/Soprastar System. Interior Signage: APCO Sign Systems. Exit Signs: Lithonia Signature. Elevators/Escalators: Cabcraft Interiors (renovated existing).