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Cornering construction at UMBC: updates and expectations

The Events Center will be opening this winter, and the Interdisciplinary Life and Sciences Building will open in the fall of 2019, according to UMBC Facilities Management.

Construction for UMBC’s two biggest projects has been underway for the past few years. The Events Center is reported to include up to 5,000 seats to hold spectators for grand events, while the ILSB is expected to hold an additional 1,800 STEM students who will benefit from its “side-by-side teaching labs” and “flexible design classrooms,” as stated by Vice President for Administration and Finance, Lynne Schaefer.

While these numbers reflect growing demand for increased space for UMBC’s student body, they also reflect the university’s mission to align its growth in status and prestige with the increasing program needs of its fellow community.

Joe Rexing, Director of Design and Construction Services at Facilities Management, stated that the uniqueness of UMBC’s master plan for the projects is in its desire to “align the growth of the campus to the strategic planning process” and “better establish the program growth and priorities of the university” to all of its need-based groups whether it be the needs of staff, students or researchers here on campus.

“The strategic plan formalizes [those needs] and the master plan looks at the ways in which we can address them,” Rexing said. “The kinds of facilities we build, how we build them, where we build them … all reflect on how important our mission is to promote collaboration and interaction and create a stronger social environment.”

The Facilities Master Plan will continue to evolve as more programs are incorporated into the campus, but Rexing believes the Event Center and Interdisciplinary Life and Sciences Building will offer better opportunities for communications for all aspects of campus life.

“The ILSB is a great example of that,” Rexing said. “The ILSB is expressive of the notion that interactions make us stronger, and make us better people. “

Likewise, the Event Center, which is predicted to relieve some of the scheduling overflow of the RAC, will allow all facilities ranging from sports to academia to be better served in its efforts to help address the recreational health and wellness goals of the university.

While the construction of the Events Center and ILSB exemplifies UMBC’s expanding vision for overall growth, addressing the issues regarding traffic and safety for students and workers is still a concern to many.

In late September, an incident during the repairing of the Commons roof, which has since been completed, resulted in the death of an employee of a subcontractor.

Lenn Caron, the Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management, stated that the tragic incident was “a sobering reminder to everybody that the construction industry can be a dangerous thing” but that safety standards are taken very seriously and continue to undergo rigorous assessments.

“When an incident like that happens, we always make sure that safety is the first priority,” he said. “ The first thing we do is make sure that the job is stopped and that we get all the details of what happened in order to ensure that we’re comfortable enough to operate in a manner that is safe for everyone.”

Additionally, several actions have been taken to help those around campus navigate around the construction areas without running into ‘dead-ends’, through the help of signs, fences and other directional tools.

“Construction is disruptive everywhere it’s done,” Caron said. “But we try to minimize the impact as much as possible.”