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UC Berkeley’s Billion Dollar Building Boom Surges Ahead

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday December 05, 2006

UC Berkeley’s building boom is surging forward as the university launches a search for architects for its newest projects—a $42.4 million, seven-level lab and office building and the restoration of Hearst Mining Circle. 

That project, mandated because the building has been listed as potentially dangerous in the event of a major earthquake, is just one small facet of the university’s multi-billion dollar building boom. 

The new building—dubbed for now the Campbell Hall Seismic Replacement Building—would be located on the site of its current namesake just across University Drive from the Mining Circle and immediately adjacent to LeConte Hall on the south and west. 

The existing building was completed in 1959 from a design by architect John Warnecke. 

The Mining Circle—a feature designed by John Galen Howard, the architect who created much of the historic campus, including the Sather Tower or campanile, its most prominent landmark—was sacrificed to the exigencies of constructing the far more massive Stanley Hall, now nearing completion immediately to the east. 

Transformed into a parking facility for heavy equipment during construction of the new Stanley Hall and the earlier renovation of the Hearst Mining Building, university officials now want to restore Howard’s circle. 

Applications must be submitted by Friday, and design work would commence immediately after the architect is selected in January, with all construction and restoration work is to be completed by Sept. 1. 

Applications for the architectural post are due by Friday. 

The university estimated project costs at $250,000 to $300,000. 


Building boom 

Stanley Hall is the most expensive of the university’s current building projects, topping even the $125 million Student Athlete High Performance Center UC Regents are expected to approve today (Tuesday). 

If the Regents approve both the controversial Southeast Campus Integrated Projects and the conversion of nearby Bowles Hall into living suites for corporate executives attending special classes at a 50,000 to 80,000 square feet planned executive education facility, those projects added to already approved projects totaling over $925 million would bring the total to over $1.25 billion. 

That number could more than triple if and when regents approve a currently stalled plan to build an additional two million square feet to the university’s Richmond Field Station as an corporate/academic research park. 

That plan was stalled after protesters in Richmond forced a handover of the cleanup of toxic wastes at the site from the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control despite strong objections from the university and the would-be developer, Simeon Properties. 

The university is using its own funds only for replacement of existing buildings found to be seismically weak. All new construction, including the SCIP and Field Station projects, would be paid for with private gifts, corporate donations and developer funds. 


Campbell Hall  

Campbell Hall is another of the campus buildings designated unsafe in the event of a major earthquake.  

The current structure, which is seven floors and a basement, encloses 40,327 square feet of space. At 53,450 square feet, the new structure is one floor shorter but would occupy a larger footprint. 

Of the total area, 24,945 square feet would be devoted to research, 15,000 to academic offices, 10,205 to administration and support functions and only 2,400 to instruction—all for astronomy courses. 

Astronomy would also take the largest share of research, followed by physics and the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center. Much of the physics research will occur in a low vibration laboratory in the basement level. 

Of the other current tenants, the offices of the deans of the College of Letters and Science and the Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies program will move to Durant Hall while the undergraduate advisors for the College of Letters and Science will move to the Hearst Field Annex. 

Applications for this position are due Dec. 19. 


More Nanotech 

The 285,000-square-foot, $158.6 million Stanley Hall now nearing completion will house labs and offices, including facilities for the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS). 

Work on the project began on Feb. 3, 2003 and completion is scheduled for Jan. 25. 

One little-noticed Stanley Hall feature certain to provoke controversy is the Bio-Nano Technology Center, which will create prototypes of microrobots and other microscopic and sub-microscopic technology for medical research, treatment and other uses. 

Nanotechnology has become a political minefield in Berkeley, where a small group of dedicated activists opposes siting facilities locally for fear that the invisible products of research could leak into the atmosphere and create health problems for those who live and work nearby. 

While a Google search turns up more than 25,000 hits for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry nanotech project—including more than 100 dealing with health and environmental concerns—a search for the Bio-Nano Technology Center rates only nine hits, none referring to similar concerns. 

Spurred on by critics the Berkeley City Council is scheduled to take up its own regulations governing nanotechnology during tonight’s (Tuesday) City Council meeting.