UHCL breaks ground on two new buildings

Recreation and wellness center.

University of Houston-Clear Lake broke ground on two new buildings March 31, which, when complete, will help train a workforce prepared to tackle 21st century careers in the sciences, engineering and health. These construction projects are a significant part of UHCL’s continued development as a four-year university.

Construction will soon begin on a STEM and Classroom Building and a Recreation and Wellness Center. Both are expected to open the fall of 2018.
“This is truly a historic occasion,” UHCL President William A. Staples said at a ceremony that included civic leaders and university administrators, faculty, staff and students.

Nestled within a 524-acre nature and wildlife preserve, UH-Clear Lake opened doors in 1974 as an upper-level university with a mandate to help train NASA’s aerospace workforce and provide academic opportunities to the budding Clear Lake area. In 2014, it expanded its curriculum to include freshman and sophomore courses. Four academic colleges – business, education, human sciences and humanities and science and engineering –  offer more than 80 undergraduate and graduate degrees and three doctoral programs.

STEM classroom building

Supporting sciences
The $65.7 million STEM and Classroom Building will contain 121,575 square feet for the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A three-story section will accommodate research labs; a two-story section will house offices and classrooms. The building will include 15 teaching labs for mechanical engineering, physics, chemistry, geology, industrial hygiene and environmental safety. It will also house 12 specialty rooms for mechanical-engineering projects, computer-aided drafting, 3-D printing and more. In addition, the building will have a 100-seat tiered lecture hall, an astronomy observation deck, a 30-seat computer lab – and 13 faculty research labs with room for six more

New degree
The new building is designed to support a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering – a degree program long sought by the community’s high-tech industries.

“We couldn’t even dream of offering mechanical engineering if it wasn’t for this building,” said Zbigniew J. Czajkiewicz, dean of the College of Science and Engineering. “We simply don’t have the space right now. The timing is perfect, so let’s start building.”

Supporting wellness
The $38.2 million, 81,709 square-foot Recreation and Wellness Center will include academic and recreational wings, open study spaces, casual seating, food service and private study rooms. An indoor, elevated three-lane running track will provide runners a campus view while overlooking two regulation-sized basketball courts and a multi-activity court for indoor soccer, hockey and other sports.

The entire court space can be converted into an event or dining hall. It will also feature weight and cardio rooms, two multipurpose rooms for yoga and other exercises as well as three teaching labs and two classrooms. The facility is expected to open in fall 2018.

The 2015 Legislature, in a bill marshalled by Rep. Dennis Paul of Houston, approved the center’s construction contingent upon the referendum’s positive outcome and support by the UH System Board of Regents.

“It’s a great honor to be a part of this,” Paul said. “It’s a joy to get something like this built for our local citizens. To be educated right here instead of flying off to some other place across the land.”

The projects represent the largest new facility development in the history of UHCL.  “It’s always a team effort,” Staples said.

In addition to Paul, he acknowledged the support of state Rep. Ed Thompson of Pearland, Rep. Greg Bonnen of League City and Texas Sen. Larry Taylor of Friendswood, as well as the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership and the many community friends and donors that helped make it happen.

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