Pierce College virtually broke ground on Dec. 2 with a project to bring the Fort Steilacoom campus a new building and Cascade renovations within a two-year window.
The construction site overlooks Lake Waughop and is located adjacent to the Cascade building, where it’ll act as a physical connection to existing buildings. The building is designed to include multiple cosmetic features including glass exterior windows, a courtyard and an interior design with natural building materials like wood and perforated metal paneling.
“It’s probably our most complicated and complex building on campus because it’s extremely specialized,” said Jeffrey Schneider, director of campus safety.
Pierce College obtained pre-design funding in 2018 after submitting the building proposal plan in 2014. Following this, the college hired McGranahan architects who participated in multiple meetings with faculty, Veterinary Technology and Dental Hygiene students to discuss the building’s features.
Contractors have begun arriving on site to start construction and site work, including relocating the sewer line from the Heath Education Center building, which currently passes through the project site.
$3.2 million of the $37 million budget has been provided by Pierce College, the remaining amount was provided by Washington state through an appropriation by the state’s legislature. Waiting for legislative approval for a number of years caused a delay in the design process, which caused the original cost of the design to increase. To compensate for inflation, adjustments were made to the building’s design from what was originally planned.
The new building will provide Dental Hygiene students with new technology, a reception lobby and operatories designed for patient comfortability and ease of use for faculty and students. The Veterinary Technology program will receive new features which include operating and recovery rooms for animal patients, along with blood analysis stations.
“We need to do better because we need to make sure that our students are ready as they go out into the field, ready to use the kind of equipment that they see out in the industry,” said Chancellor Michele Johnson.
The pandemic has created a need for elements of safety such as ventilation in the new building, along with the issue of maintaining the program’s rigor and activity within the old space. Quality facilities and equipment are important elements in creating better educational opportunities for a diverse community of learners, and this project will aim to strengthen those programs in an evolving world, according to Johnson.
“Those are all programs that really require state-of-the-art, top-notch facilities, and they are working in the part of Cascade that has not been renovated for quite some time,” said Julie White, the campus president at Fort Steilacoom.
The first floor of Fort Steilacoom’s Cascade building will be remodeled during the second year of the estimated two-year project. The Emergency Medical Services program will move into the remodeled first floor after the Dental Hygiene and Veterinary Technology programs are moved into the new building. As it stands, the EMS program has temporarily moved to empty classrooms located in the Sunrise building.
Currently, the Dental Hygiene program has operated in one of the last spaces of the Cascade building with older equipment and a limited workspace.
Schneider explained that even though the building will be designed specifically for students interested in the STEM career pathway, there’ll be a larger benefit to the college if enrollment in the programs begins to increase, as higher enrollment rates generate more funding for Pierce College through the state.
“Another big concern we always have is staying on budget,” said Schneider.
Pierce College is looking to come in under budget by several million dollars, though it’s subject to change by the end of construction. Since all three departments faced complications in the Cascade building, the best option was to add another building, according to Schneider.
Along with the technology and equipment that’ll be vital assets to the Veterinary Technology and Dental Hygiene programs after the project is complete, the lobby will feature a public art project with the combined efforts of Pierce College and the state. The design will be created by an artist that the design committee, (consisting of faculty, staff and a student representative), decides to approve as one of the building’s final touches.
The pandemic may cause further delays in the building process, as Pierce College has already seen supply chain issues regarding the availability of building materials. A COVID-19 outbreak amid construction workers would be another factor that could lead to delays, though the college aims to open the building for its students and the surrounding community between late 2021 and early 2022.
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