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Oklahoma State University

The official magazine of Oklahoma State University

So Much More Construction

Building Boom

Several projects are giving OSU campus a new feel

Story by Beverly Bryant

Major construction projects are giving a new look to OSU’s landscape. 

These projects, ranging from new buildings and expanding faculty offices and teaching spaces to new dormitories, have a combined preliminary cost of nearly $190 million, according to Mike Buchert, director of Long Range Facilities Planning.

Mary Bryans, in the Budget and Asset Management Department, says the funds are coming from many sources, including donations to Branding Success: The Campaign for Oklahoma State University, general revenue bonds and university funds.

The projects are: 

The Veterinary Medicine Academic Center along Farm Road near Hall of Fame is giving faculty members new space for their offices, Buchert says. 

Dr. Jean Sander, dean of the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, says the new office space has been a long time coming.

When the current building was occupied in 1981, she says, a “cube farm” was created in the basement. “It was intended to be temporary,” Sander says, “but they are still using it today.”

The offices in the new building will be a boon on several levels. Current faculty will enjoy the new spaces, Sander says, and the update will make the university more attractive to potential faculty hires.

“Higher education is a buyer’s market,” she says. “Clinical specialists can earn a lot more money elsewhere. We need something more to help us recruit them. The new building is coming, and it is part of the discussion when candidates are coming here.”

The truth, she says, is that “we’re stealing each other’s faculty and there’s only so many candidates available from the 28 veterinary schools in the country.”

A second phase that will include an auditorium is pending funding. 

“The university agreed to pay for the office building, but I needed to fundraise for the auditorium,” Sander says with a laugh. 

Sander says the auditorium will offer many benefits for the veterinary school, particularly for a “2+2 program” with Arkansas. 

The 2+2 program is modeled after an agreement between Iowa and Nebraska.

“Most vet schools are state funded, with preference given to state students,” she says. “We have 82 students, and only 24 of those can come from out of state. That leaves some students out in the cold if their states do not have veterinary schools.”

States have been making agreements to solve that shortage, she says. 

“The states that do not have veterinary programs have been entering contracts with veterinary schools to save seats at their in-state tuition rate,” she says. “The sending states subsidize the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for their students.”

In the Iowa-Nebraska partnership, Nebraska students participated through distance learning the first two years, then attended Iowa State University for their third and fourth years. 

Likewise, Arkansas students would come to OSU, once there is a lab space for them to get hands-on experience. 

Sander says a task force has been formed to determine how the college’s current spaces can best be utilized after the new office building is complete.

“We have a great hospital,” Sander says. “It has pretty good space but a unique floor plan. We’ll be looking at a complete building analysis.”

The office building’s foundation work began in fall 2014. Completion of the $5.4 million project is expected in summer 2015.

The Library Auxiliary Building, a high-density storage building designed to hold approximately 1.5 million books, is under construction on Hall of Fame Avenue east of the Physical Plant. 

“The book storage part of the building will have no windows and will be kept at 50 degrees,” Buchert says. A portion of the building will be used as office space for a small staff.

Bonnie Ann Cain-Wood, the OSU Library’s senior communications specialist, says the building will be filled with high-density shelving.

“There will be a lot of materials in a very small footprint,” she says. 

The climate and light controls will provide an ideal archival environment. Part of what will make the facility more efficient is the way books and other materials will be stored.

The material will be stored on 30-foot high shelves, and staff members can retrieve items using a cherry picker lift, she says.

The items that may be moved to the LAB include duplicates of printed materials, print versions of materials available online, older non-research materials and materials that need special archival care, she says.

“We have been struggling with space issues for years,” Cain-Wood says. “Edmon Low Library is far beyond its capacity. The result is a dramatic reduction in public seating.”

Moving the selected material will increase the space available for public events, study groups and private study areas.

“According to the door counts, we have a million visitors a year,” she says. “Ideally, a campus our size would have far more seating. During our busiest times, we’ve seen students sitting on the floor.”

This is not the first time the library has dealt with a large move of materials.

“We have 250,000 items in the Library Annex on North Boomer Road, so we have experience in moving materials,” Cain-Wood says. The annex was completed in 2003. 

Although neither the annex nor the LAB will be open for browsing materials, library users can request materials stored there and access them quickly.

“If we have a request by 11 a.m., we will have it available by 5 p.m.,” Cain-Wood says. “We can make the materials available in one business day.”

If someone needs a portion of the materials quicker, the work can be digitized within copyright regulations and sent to the user electronically. 

“Our online discovery tools will help ensure relocated material remains accessible,” Cain-Wood says. “We call our catalog the Big Orange Search System. With a single search box, users can search hundreds of our library resources simultaneously. BOSS also helps you narrow or expand your results, so you can find the sources you need.”

Another special feature of the OSU library is on-site access to any Oklahoma resident.

“Since we are a land-grant college, our resources are available to any Oklahoman. You can visit us in person to search databases or check out materials,” she says. 

When moving day comes for the materials going to the LAB, the library is ready with a Jeep and a trailer. 

“The librarians will be very involved in hand-picking the materials to go over,” she says. “We have hired a LAB manager who will also have a part-time team. They will handle everything from relocating and archiving materials to retrieving and delivering requests.”

The $7.5 million project should be finished by the end of 2014.

The Information Technology Building is an $8-million project going up east of the Library Auxiliary Building. 

“This will consolidate 150 people who work in IT into one space, freeing up internal space in buildings throughout the campus,” Buchert says. 

Construction was completed in mid-October, but punch lists and furniture deliveries were expected to take several weeks as employees started moving into the building.

Darlene Hightower with Information Technologies says IT employees are spread among Whitehurst Hall, the Math Science Building and Scott Hall. 

Hightower says IT has about 125 full-time employees, along with part-time and student workers. 

She says Data Center employees will not move, keeping deskside support, executive support and walk-in support functions central to campus. 

Even with moving headaches, Hightower looks forward to the new building.

“I think it’s great,” she says. “We’re going to enhance our collaboration efforts. It’s an open cubicle concept. You don’t have to go very far to call a meeting.”

 The IT building will have an unlikely feature in its parking lot. Joe Nelson in the Athletics Department says 34 pedestals have been installed to provide electric hookups for recreational vehicles.

“We also use Lot 74 across from the Colvin Center for RV parking,” Nelson says. “There are 78 spaces for members of the State Rangers RV Club and it is full, with a waiting list of about 30 people.

“We just received these spaces in Lot 81 (at the IT building) this fall. We have been using it for POSSE members with Silver Star or above parking on a first-come, first-served basis. The 78 units are reserved by space in Lot 74.”

Nelson says Athletics is monitoring usage this fall to determine how much traffic interest there will be in Lot 81 in order to form a plan for the future.

“We will still need to make space for telecom and IT employees who have to work 24/7,” Nelson says. 

The Bert Cooper Engineering Laboratory is a high-tech building with some unusual features going up on Tyler Road, one block north of McElroy.

“The 33,000-square-foot building will be used as a structural engineering and materials engineering testing laboratory,” says Buchert. The laboratory will have the capacity to test full-size bridges or multi-story buildings, he says. 

The Cooper Lab’s strong floor will be 4 feet thick and supported by a 20-ton crane. The system will provide a consistent range of temperatures for testing with a geothermal system that will showcase technology developed in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Engineering. This project will cost about $7 million.

The building construction used environmentally sustainable methods from concrete foundations to the heating and cooling systems, all developed by faculty and researchers at OSU. Concrete foundations used multi-graded concrete mixtures to reduce total cement content. Additionally, the Cooper Lab is one of the first major building projects in the state to use a blended cement that contains limestone cement and flyash. Together, that adds up to a more than 40 percent reduction in the carbon dioxide footprint on the 2,000 cubic yards of concrete. Additionally, 96 percent of the structural steel supplied by W&W Steel is made from recycled materials

This is all part of a larger strategy laid out by CEAT Dean Paul Tikalsky: “The Cooper Lab will be home to developing the next generation of structural materials and sensor technology, and we hope to showcase the world-leading geothermal technology developed within our college. The geothermal technology that was developed right here at OSU is now used around the world.  We hope that the Cooper Lab will provide a working example for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.”  

The laboratory will also feature a testing bay dedicated to performing structural engineering and materials research for their responses to fires and other hazardous events. There remains much to be learned to ensure the life safety of building inhabitants and first responders.  

The laboratory’s namesake, Bert Cooper, was a longtime supporter of OSU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Associate Professor Bruce Russell says Bert Cooper “was the reason I came to OSU.”

Russell offers a little history on the generous OSU donor: “Bert started in sales at a small metal fabricator, W&W Steel Co. in Oklahoma City. Eventually, he and his son Rick Cooper bought the company, and Bert became chief executive officer and executive chairman. Under Bert’s leadership and direction, W&W Steel became one of the largest steel fabricators in the country. W&W performs projects all over North America and is involved in the most complicated and the most highly visible projects nationwide. The AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the Dallas Cowboys play, is one of W&W’s recent high-profile projects.”    

In 2006, Cooper created a $500,000 endowed professorship to benefit the civil engineering department. He died on Feb. 28, 2012, but the plans for the laboratory had been in the works for more than a decade.

“Now we’re getting it done,” Russell says. “When completed, the Cooper Lab will be the largest and best equipped structural engineering and structural materials laboratory in the mid-continent and Rocky Mountain States. From the West Coast to the East Coast, and between Urbana, Ill., and Austin, Texas, the Cooper Lab will be the premiere facility of its kind.” 

“This has been a real project for Bert,” Russell says. “Over the years, W&W Steel has made many donations to help with new buildings around the campus. His son, Rick Cooper, is now the president and CEO of W&W Steel and remains a strong supporter of both academic and athletic programs at OSU. To help ensure the success of the Cooper Lab, W&W donated all the steel materials and steel erection.”

All of the architecture and engineering services were donated by Frankfurt Short Bruza of Oklahoma City, Russell says. “Jim Bruza was a graduate of the architecture program. They have donated 100 percent of their work, with a value well over $1 million,” Russell says. 

“Cobb Engineering of Oklahoma City donated all the civil engineering. Jim Cobb was a graduate of A&M in 1950s. Jim was one of the charter members of the POSSE Club, starting in the 1960s,” Russell says.

About 30 companies are partners in the construction of the laboratory, he says.

University Commons is made up of three buildings in the student residence project that will house 950 students on Hall of Fame Avenue. 

University Commons, built in the Neo-Georgian style, will replace Kerr-Drummond, which will be demolished after students move into the new dormitory in fall 2015.

“Construction should be finished next summer, and the building will open next fall. You can really see the building coming together now,” Buchert says. The estimated project cost is $65 million.

The project is going up on the former site of the track and field center just west of Cowboy Mall. 

Two additional major projects will begin this winter, Buchert says.

Construction on the new Spears School of Business building and an addition for the College of Human Sciences will both start this winter.