UC Merced, the newest campus in the University of California system, is poised to become a model for other campuses with one of the most efficient ways to construct, operate and maintain facilities that enable teaching, research, and public service missions. The collaborative Merced 2020 project will nearly double the physical capacity of the campus by 2020 with new state-of-the-art research facilities, a dining hall, recreation facilities, a competition pool, and 1,700 new beds—enabling the campus to grow to 10,000 students. Located in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the state’s most academically underserved regions, the campus supports the University’s mission of stimulating economic growth and increasing the rate of local high school graduates attending college.
The campus expansion will be delivered through a Public-Private Partnership through Plenary Partners Merced (PPM), a consortium that consists of Plenary Group USA as the developer, Webcor Builders as the design-builder, and Johnson Controls as the facility manager. As the master plan architect, SOM assembled a team of exceptionally talented architecture, engineering and design firms to add richness and variety within the framework of the master plan, as well as to meet challenging design goals that honor UC Merced’s commitment to Triple Net Zero performance. Many of these firms contributed to earlier phases of the campus design and have a deep understanding of the context of the campus. To support long-term life cycle and sustainability goals, the construction approaches will be flexible and adaptable to changes in use and future expansion phases. Joining SOM and PPM are WRNS, Page, Mahlum, HOK, Arup, Atelier Ten, Hargreaves Associates, Cliff Lowe Associates, Interface Engineering, and Sherwood Design Engineers.
“SOM is thrilled to return to UC Merced and lead the design on this next important phase of the campus evolution,” said SOM Design Director Michael Duncan. “We’ve put together a great team—including some of the best architects, landscape architects and engineers in their fields—who were picked for the variety and strength of their academic experience. We will be working collaboratively to nearly double the size of the campus. Taking on such a large segment of the campus has enabled us to provide a more comprehensive and sustainable program, and to provide enrichment and variety in the campus setting, as well as to enhance student life and inform academic programs. It gives us a unique chance to achieve something greater—to build on what UC Merced has achieved so far and done so well.”
The new campus design will provide a new academic quad framed by research, academic office, and dining facilities that engage with central outdoor spaces and embrace the existing campus. The compact, walkable campus plan will extend the academic heart of the university south along a new Academic Walk, lined with residential and research facilities, fronting Little Lake and connecting to a new campus town center and entry. On the west side of the campus, a new athletic, recreational and wellness area will create continuity with existing buildings and support interdisciplinary interaction among students, faculty, and staff.
WRNS Studio wove learning spaces into the fabric of the new campus, providing a model for the classroom and academic environments embedded in the live-learn communities. The team designed the Computational Laboratory/Academic Office Building, which will be located in the new Academic Research Quad. The buildings will serve as a connector and threshold between the quad and the landscape, and will add liveliness to the expanded academic center.
The student housing component of the project was designed by architects Page and Mahlum. Together, they developed a series of student housing communities that are knitted into the Academic Walk with a mixed use program at the ground floor. The mix of retail, classrooms, and student life activity will create a streetscape with different functions throughout the day and night.
HOK designed the competition aquatic center, campus wellness center, multimodal transit center, competition field, and other campus recreation facilities. The group maintained the university’s unique and integrated live-learn approach to campus life by developing designs that bridge sports, recreation, health and wellness through strategic adjacencies and connectivity of new and renovated facilities.
Having established the original UC Merced master plan, in addition to designing the first two buildings on campus—the Kolligian Library and the Central Plant—SOM returned to the campus to design a central dining facility that will serve as a hub of student activity and a link between the new and existing parts of the campus. The facility reinterprets the traditional, industrial agricultural shed to create an expansive interior dining space that encourages community engagement and supports a socially-focused dining environment.
SOM also designed laboratories that support the university’s commitment to leading-edge science and collaborative learning. The flexible plan of the individual buildings enables a variety of lab configurations that all encourage a sense of community and bring long term value to the university.
Arup provided infrastructure engineering and transportation planning for the campus expansion. The design of the site infrastructure will sustainably and economically address the architectural ambitions of the site, while accommodating for further expansion phases.
As environmental consultants, Atelier Ten guided the response to university’s sustainability goals and collaborated with Webcor, Johnson Controls, and the design team to achieve cost-effective, energy efficient and maintainable designs. The master plan minimizes southwest- and west-facing facade areas and will reduce building cooling demands while maintaining continuity with the existing campus.
Hargreaves Associates and Cliff Lowe Associates provided landscape architecture services to design the outdoor campus environment as well as the landscape master planning to balance the needs of housing, academics, and recreation with ecology and environment. Each landscape has been designed to promote an interaction with habitat through native, low water use plantings integrated within the campus, as well as larger ecological corridors and systems that double as sustainable infrastructure for stormwater management
Interface Engineering worked with all architectural, construction, and facilities management team members on the design of the mechanical and electrical systems. The design aims to achieve the highest level of energy efficiency while balancing all of the influencing factors of central plant capacity and maximum chilled water demands, efficiency increases over Title 24, LEED® goals, resiliency and operating costs, as well as construction cost/benefit efficiency.
Sherwood Design Engineers developed a campus-wide water management strategy for UC Merced that will, over time, support the goal of a net-zero, non-potable campus. Natural low-impact development strategies related to stormwater management will treat, convey, and promote groundwater recharge. This, coupled with Sherwood’s ecological approach to site and infrastructure, will amplify Merced’s natural setting and maximize LEED® compliance credits for water management.
The groundbreaking for the project took place in October 2016, with the first phase of buildings scheduled for delivery in 2018. The remainder is expected to be completed by 2020.
About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world, with an 80-year reputation for design excellence and a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since its inception, SOM has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with nearly 2,000 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Abu Dhabi.