Construction continues at SMC as outdated facilities are rebuilt or replaced

Some of Santa Monica College’s outdated facilities are to become newer, greener, and more technologically advanced. The constructions are on their third and final stage, known as the “Career and Educational Improvements.” Projects under this stage will be mostly funded by a $295 million Bond Measure AA that was approved by Santa Monica voters in November 2008, according to the SMC bond projects website.

Some students may wonder why so much money is being allocated towards construction projects amidst the recent budget cuts and fee hikes that plague SMC. SMC Director of Facilities Planning Greg Brown explains that these funds were voter approved, specifically for necessary reconstruction projects, before California’s budget woes became so apparent.

Because of the structure of bond measures, these funds must be used for capital construction projects, not for faculty and staff salaries or other education programs.

This final phase of construction will include replacing the old and dilapidated temporary structures that currently serve as the school’s math department. The new math department will be moved to the science building. This will provide room for some of the science classes, which are currently scattered around campus, to rejoin their department.

Brown states that the increase in classroom space will be minimal. “This project is about modernizing classrooms and labs,” he said. The new facilities will be equipped with the latest technology available.

All of the new classrooms will be built as “smart” classrooms, containing a variety of technologically advanced class presentation equipment, including touch screens as well as Wi-Fi access. This new structure, known as the “Replacement Math and Science Extension Building,” is scheduled to be completed in December 2016.

Brown believes the biggest difference on the main campus will be the new Health/PE/Fitness/Dance building that will also contain a central plant to help provide some power and cooling to other facilities.

The building will be filled with brand new training equipment that will include an indoor rock-climbing wall.

Athletic Projects Director Joe Cascio believes the state of the art facility will not only benefit the sports programs, but the school as a whole. “It will help us recruit better athletes,” Cascio said, “but we also have an outstanding campus outreach program that brings hundreds of students, not just athletes” on campus tours.

Cascio believes potential students “may see the state of the art facility and decide to come (to SMC), even if they never step foot on the playing field.” The $40 million project is projected to reach completion by the end of 2014.

New constructions are not happening only on the main campus. The Academy of Entertainment and Technology campus will receive a new “Media and Technology Complex.”

SMC’s digital arts, media, communication, and broadcasting programs “currently reside in ’50s era buildings that cannot support the modern infrastructure necessary for digital and online programs,” according to the bond projects website.

The facility in AET will also house the new KCRW studio; Brown says it was designed “to bring related fields of study together.”

The constructions are not only designed to improve the effectiveness of learning facilities, but also to improve the environmental sustainability and structural stability of SMC properties.

According to a July 2002 facilities assessment report conducted by the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, only five of the 32 SMC buildings have a

Facility Condition Index of less than ten percent. This means only five SMC buildings are considered to be “in good or fair condition.” The remaining buildings are in poor shape.

All the new SMC facilities will use some form of alternative energy, usually in the form of roof-mounted solar panels with the exception of the athletics complex, which will utilize solar energy for its hot water supply.

Brown says all buildings will have at minimum a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating with the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED rating classifies facilities by nine key areas ranging from water efficiency to the materials used in construction.

Although students and staff will have to deal with some day-to-day disruptions due to the construction and temporary relocation of some of the facilities, the school will greatly benefit from this rehabilitation, says Brown.

He believes that by the end of 2016, SMC should be a leader in technology and sustainability among California’s community colleges.