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UCI Starts Work on Science & Engineering Building

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Work has started on a sizeable new science and engineering facility at the University of California-Irvine, designed to foster cross-disciplinary research in engineering, computing and physical sciences.

Construction work is now underway for UCI’s new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building, which will serve the university’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering, the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Science, and the School of Physical Sciences.

The structure will accommodate more than 50 faculty members—including a batch of planned new hires—and hundreds of students, according to the school. It will be one of the largest integrative research facilities west of the Rocky Mountains.

The six-story facility will run 204,750 square feet and should be open in about two years, according to Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Co. of San Francisco, which is acting as design-build contractor for the project, and Seattle-based LMN Architects, which is handling architecture and interior design.

It’s the fourth consecutive building on UCI’s campus to be designed and built by LMN Architects and Hathaway Dinwiddie, according to a statement from the two firms. The project was won through a design-build competition, they said.

$30M Funding Gift

The L-shaped building, along the school’s southern edge, will have three main components. They are:

• a “Jewel Box” glass-and-concrete tower, designed to provide collaboration and office space for researchers;

• a glass and precast concrete “Lab Bar” to house a variety of laboratories; and

• a transparent, glass-wrapped connector that will connect the Jewel Box with the labs and “serve as the focal point for collaborative engagement across research disciplines,” according to the project’s planners.

Among other features, the project will also include an outdoor courtyard on its fourth floor.

The project’s cost has been cited by school officials as recently as this July as being $120 million, with funding coming by way of a $30 million gift from the Samueli Foundation, coupled with $50 million in state funds and $40 million in UCI funds.

The Corona del Mar-based Samueli Foundation, started by Henry and Susan Samueli, announced the donation last year.

They’ll be providing $3 million to the school over a ten-year period, according to university records.

Financing-related records from the University of California’s Board of Regents last year suggest the price of the project could fall closer to the $156 million range once all is said and done, as the $120 million figure was associated with a smaller-sized building.

Outsized Growth

The Board of Regents records noted that enrollment in UCI’s schools of engineering, physical sciences, and computer sciences have “far surpassed” the level of growth for the campus as a whole since 2008, warranting the new development.

Combined undergraduate enrollment in the three schools increased 62% in less than a decade, compared to 21% undergraduate growth for the campus.

UCI’s undergraduate base is approaching 30,000 students.

Similarly, faculty recruitment has not kept pace with enrollment growth; between 2008 and 2017, the three science and engineering schools added only 37 faculty members, a 13% increase.

To correct this imbalance, the campus intends to recruit 88 new faculty members in these schools by 2020-21, according to last September’s Board of Regents report.

Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.

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