As Gonzaga University’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the construction of the Integrated Science and Engineering facility at a meeting last month, a round of applause flooded the room.
The new 82,679-square-foot building overlooking Lake Arthur on the south end of campus will provide the university with a state-of-the-art facility, designed with the future of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in mind.
“I think it is tremendously exciting in its potential for offering students the finest education they will receive in STEM, engineering and computer science,” Deena Gonzalez, GU’s provost and senior vice president said.
The building will keep GU up to date with the trends in technology, a priority for the school as applications for STEM-related majors have increased by 122% in the last five years.
“It is a real positive expression of what we are here to do and our commitment of delivering excellence in the academic sector,” said Joseph Smith, GU’s chief financial officer.
The building will include at least 16 different types of laboratory spaces, faculty offices, classrooms, community spaces for students to collaborate and transparent spaces designed to display the work of science and engineering students. The new space is also expected to have a domino effect on surrounding buildings, allowing for a reconfiguration of resources in Hughes Hall, the PACCAR Center for Applied Science and the Herak Center.
For convenience, the Integrated Science and Engineering Building will connect directly to the west end of PACCAR and a sky bridge will link it to Hughes hall.
In planning the $56 million project, the second most expensive (the first being Hemmingson Center) undertaking in GU’s history, students were consulted often to ensure the project was driven by those who will utilize it most.
“There is incredible excitement and there will be a lot of ongoing discussion, and so people should feel very comfortable in feeding in,” Gonzalez said. “We want people to have ownership of this building even before the ground is broken.”
Gonzalez forecasts the Integrated Science and Engineering building as a homey, open location that will be like the Hemmingson Center for a new group of students.
Senior Paul Freihofer, a mechanical engineering major, won’t benefit from the facility, but he is excited for how it will expand opportunities for incoming Zags.
“I think we have a great program that could expand further and giving more space to more students is a great next step,” Freihofer said.
While construction is anticipated to begin this fall, funding for the undertaking has yet to be secured.
Following the completion of four large projects worth upward of $96 million in recent years, including the Volkar Center for Athletic Achievement, the Woldson Performing Arts Center, Della Strada Jesuit Community and a renovation to the Humanities Building, garnering donations hasn’t been easy.
“On the heels of that kind of capital spent, with what is positioned to be a $56.1 million building, it is not necessarily a ‘Oh yeah, wave your magic wand’ and it happens,” Smith said.
Based on previous success fundraising for projects even after committing to build them, Smith is confident backing will be secured. By starting construction soon, the university aims to take advantage of attractive interest rates, while getting ahead of inflation on the price of materials and labor.
“We have every expectation that we will see additional benefaction from a number of different sources to support this building and that is what we are working toward,” he said.
University Advancement is engaging benefactors in search of more donations, large, catalyst donors, assistance from foundations and/or corporate sponsorship for the facility.
Joe Poss, vice president of University Advancement, said the goal is to raise more than $12 million to fund the building, on par with the benefaction requests for other large university projects.
However, even if contributions aren’t secured, the building will be completed utilizing other university assets and resources. Although, Smith said such a scenario would be less than ideal.
According to Smith, the university will borrow proceeds and garner debt worth between $35 million and $40 million in support of the project, but GU would not be committed to spending that money specifically on this project if enough funds were raised elsewhere.
Financing, in addition to extensive leadership turnover, including four new deans and a new provost, delayed the project which has been on hold since February.
“A building like this has every potential to be a 50-to 70-year building on our campus, so in the grand life cycle of a building that has that kind of duration, a one-or two-year hiccup in timeline is actually not that big of a deal,” Smith said.
The project, which has been designed and permitted for years, is being bid to contractors now and is expected to be completed by fall 2021, although weather could delay the 20-to 22-month timeline.
Students can expect to see signs of construction immediately, according to Ken Sammons, GU’s director of Plant Services. Cataldo Way, south of Hughes and around to Jepson, will be closed and surrounded in fencing as heavy equipment will soon be moved onto the site.
While Sammons said the inherent noises and vibrations of construction will be unavoidable for students in Hughes, Herak and PACCAR, any task that may impact utilities to those buildings will be coordinated to minimize outages to the extent it is possible.
“There is no way to stop or mitigate these effects in any significant fashion,” Sammons said in an email. “The potential contractors for this project all have experience working around other occupied buildings.”
A finalized name for the Integrated Engineering and Science building has yet to be decided and will likely depend on GU’s success finding a lead donor or corporate sponsor for the build. Gonzalez and Smith both anticipate a change in name, although what that might look like is unknown at this time.