Daily Iowan: College of Engineering Sees Much-needed Building Expansion in the Future

Thursday, September 5, 2013

By Shianne Gruss
Daily Iowan

Almost one year later, the Seamans Center expansion is still in the planning stages.

In 2016, when the majority of the University of Iowa’s current construction projects are set to be finished, a new project will likely be just beginning at the Seamans Center.

However, it’s quite possible the College of Engineering will have outgrown it by then.

The college’s enrollment has increased dramatically since its $31 million renovation in 2001 — from 1,148 that year to 1,840 in 2012, according to the UI Office of the Registrar.

This year, enrollment for the college is more than 2,000, said Alec Scranton, the dean of the college, in a recent written statement.

“Due to this growth in the scope and impact of the teaching, research, and service activities in the College of Engineering, space has become the limiting resource,” Scranton said in the statement. “And an expansion of the Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences is imperative.”

According to the project’s description, the expansion will add 65,000 square feet to the south side of the existing building on the site that used to be College Street. The expansion will include research and wet labs, academic support space, and much-needed general assignment classrooms.

In 2006, a UI report listed the Lindquist Center could possibly expand into the space that now will be used for the Seamans Center expansion. However, the College of Education has seen roughly a 35 percent decrease in enrollment in the past decade, while the engineering school is bursting at the seams.

The Center for Computer-Aided Design, Office of Sustainability, Department of Biomedical Engineering, and the hydroscience and engineering departments will move into the new addition.

The project is in early schematic design and will be sent to the state Board of Regents for budget and design approval when ready, said Rod Lehnertz, director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management.

The state Board of Regents approved the estimated $30 million project in October 2012, and the cost will be covered by $24 million from gifts and earnings. The remaining costs will be covered by grants.

Lehnertz said he expects the design and budget will be sent to the regents by the spring of 2014, although no specific schedule has been established.

“Regardless of the final siting arrangement, the building will become part of an important College Street hill campus pathway,” Lehnertz said. “The project site will maintain and make better that campus path and will also improve accessibility in that part of campus.”

UI sophomore Terryl Bandy said she would like to see more areas for students to come together and do homework in the expansion, as well as a cafeteria of some sort.

“Most of us end up living in the Seamans Center most of the year,” she said. “It would be nice to be able to get something other than from the vending machines during late night studying.”

Officials are aiming to achieve a silver-level LEED certification for the new addition. This certification reflects the sustainability of the building, said Jennifer Hoffman, a UI Facilities Management project manager.

“The college is exploring several additional sustainable elements that they’d like to incorporate if the budget allows,” Hoffman said.

These include a rainwater harvest system and solar roof panels.

But for now, no plans are certain.

“Everything is very tentative,” Hoffman said. “Until we go back to the Board of Regents for approval of schematic design, nothing is set.”