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AB 9 will be cool

FGCU plans for cooling plant, academic building

Every day, vehicles traveling on Florida Gulf Coast University’s gravel parking lot leave a trail of dust flying behind them.

That dust may soon be replaced by dust from construction crews.

A new academic building, Academic Building 9, is scheduled to be built between Parking Garage 1 and Recreation Field 1, according to the campus master plan.

“The future academic core (will) displace much of the gravel lot,” said Director of Facilities Planning Tom Mayo. Construction of Academic Building 9 will not begin until 2015 or later.

Mayo said the building will be located on the far west side of the gravel lot.

Junior business management student Tommy Twyford welcomes the construction.

“I hope the gravel lot is removed,” said Twyford, who is also president of the FGCU Lacrosse Club. “When our lacrosse guys practice out on the fields, it is difficult for some of us to breathe with the dust given off by cars in the gravel lot.”

Mayo said FGCU’s facilities will reach capacity within the next three years, even if additional Friday and Saturday courses were offered.

“We are almost out of classroom and lab-type space,” Mayo said. “We would like to build Academic (Building) 9 as soon as possible.”

According to the most recent campus master plan, the gravel parking lot and recreation field on the east side of campus will be home to future academic buildings. Mayo did not state a specific time period in which all the buildings would be built.

“My biggest question is what will this building look like, and who will pay for it?” Twyford said.

Exact designs for Academic Building 9 do not yet exist, Mayo said. “Right now the priority is expanding the Central Energy Plant.”

The Central Energy Plant, located directly south of the library, is home to an elaborate system in which water is chilled and pumped to campus facilities through underground pipes. The chilled water is used to provide climate control for the buildings, according to Jim Hehl, director of physical plant.

“We are close to maximum capacity at the current plant,” Hehl said. “It is the lifeline of the university.”

The plant was last expanded in 2008.

Underground pipes running from the Central Energy Plant to the east core of campus do not yet exist, and are a large portion of FGCU’s request for funding, Hehl said. “Usually a plant expansion does not involve new (underground) piping.”

Funding for the Central Energy Plant expansion and the construction of Academic Building 9 is determined by Florida legislators.

In early 2013, “FGCU requested $9 million for our Central Energy Plant expansion, and $2.6 million for design for an Academic Building 9,” said Vice President and Chief of Staff Susan Evans in an email. “Unfortunately … neither of these requests was funded.”

FGCU will request funding for these projects during the 2014 legislative session, according to Evans.

“Construction documents for the (Central Energy Plant) expansion will be completed by the end of the year,” Hehl said. “The challenges are mostly with funding.”

Hehl said the plant expansion may have to be scaled down if state lawmakers don’t fund the complete project.

“The Central Energy Plant expansion is planned to be able to accommodate all future growth in the east core of campus,” Hehl said. “If the state does not fully fund the expansion, we have plans to scale it back and only accommodate Academic Building 9 for the time being.” Doing so would not be cost-effective, Hehl added.

Mayo said the east core of campus is part of the “upper portion of (FGCU’s) build-out.”

“We are trying to look out for students generations from now,” Mayo said. “For us to move ahead, it is contingent on our legislators to provide funding.”

Florida’s 2014 legislative session is scheduled to begin in March 2014.

 

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