UCAR Communications


staff notes monthly

November 2002

Space: The never-final frontier

Now that we have the Center Green (CG) buildings, who should move into them?
That, in a nutshell, is the challenge for the institution as it develops space plans for the three buildings on Center Green Drive that UCAR purchased in September. The issues are so complex that it will be several years before everyone settles down into a new permanent home.

Steve Dickson, the former NCAR associate director who now chairs the UCAR Space Implementation Committee (USIC), explains that a number of questions need to be resolved before it’s determined which departments and sections will end up in CG and which will remain in the Foothills and Mesa Labs. “The space issue is a bigger thing than Center Green by a long shot,” he says. “Center Green is just part of the total picture.”

CG1 features bold architectural lines.

UCAR purchased the three buildings for $16.5 million on 6 September as part of a long-term strategy to accommodate current space needs as well as anticipated growth. The buildings, which flank the west side of Foothills Parkway just south of the FL complex, offer about 80,000 square feet of space, and Boulder has granted preliminary approval for the construction of a 20,000-square-foot addition. UCAR will also lease a neighboring building at 3065 Center Green Drive to house Finance and Administration (which will move from Pearl Street into the new space in March).


OZ Architecture of Boulder is refining the preliminary space requirements and will evaluate three space allocation options developed over the past six months by staff committees. The UCAR Strategic Plan for Space estimates that UCAR, NCAR, and UOP will need a total of 755,000 square feet within five years because of current shortages, anticipated staff expansions, and the swing space needed for visitors and other functions. That’s a big increase over the 552,000 square feet that were available before the purchase—and it means that even with the new buildings, we may eventually need tens of thousands of additional square feet.

With 400 seats in its auditorium, CG more than doubles UCAR’s capacity to convene large meetings in one place. The plans for constructing additional space may include breakout rooms to further increase conference capacity. Large collaborative projects have become the hallmark of atmospheric science, and planning is now under way “to provide the kinds of meeting spaces that today’s science requires,” says Katy Schmoll, UCAR vice president for finance and administration.

Movements on a “checkerboard”

One of the biggest challenges for the space planners is how to best provide for the Atmospheric Chemistry Division’s laboratories, now housed in ML. Because of both regulatory and research requirements, those labs need sophisticated piping systems and an infrastructure that can accommodate exhaust fans, fume hoods, tanks of gas, and other types of equipment. The mesa may not be a suitable site.

Options include making extensive modifications to CG or FL buildings, or constructing a new building in the FL complex. “It may be less expensive to build a new facility than to retrofit Center Green,” Steve says. A laboratory design consultant is helping space planners evaluate the options, and a report may be available by about the beginning of the year.

Another challenge is deciding which functions should be housed together for maximum effectiveness. For example, would it make sense for the office of UCAR president Rick Anthes to move to CG, near the facility’s 400-seat auditorium? Or should it remain at ML, close to Tim Killeen and other staff in the NCAR directorate?

Complicating the situation is the ongoing refurbishment of ML. The NCAR directorate is temporarily housed in CG1 (also called the headquarters building), as is CGD, because of work on Tower A. When they return to ML in the spring, other mesa staffers will be moved to CG temporarily to make room for additional ML refurbishments.

Even as staffers rotate through CG, crews will begin making changes to the new space to get it ready for permanent occupancy. This means that some sections must be kept unoccupied at all times so new walls and cables can be installed.

“It’s like a gaming problem,” Steve says. “We’ve got to leave some empty space on the checkerboard to move people around.”

Until major issues like the ACD lab location are resolved, nobody knows for sure who will wind up where. Even then, some of the options that are tentatively approved may turn out to be unfeasible, once detailed plans are completed. Steve hopes final placement decisions can be made by February 2003, but even that may be optimistic.

Not just cubicles

Steve stresses that the CG buildings, which had been the headquarters of the corporate training firm CareerTrack and, more recently, the Internet company netLibrary, will be refurbished to make them compatible with the institution’s research needs. This means that most of the buildings’ cubicles will be replaced by traditional offices so staffers who need quiet can close their doors. UCAR can draw on the experience redesigning the interior of FL 1/2/3, which also had an open floor plan filled with cubicles when purchased in 1990.

“USIC will be considering general design and finish standards, within which the specific needs of affected divisions and programs will be addressed,” Steve explains.

He also emphasizes that space planners are trying to accommodate everyone’s priorities. Although not all staffers who want offices with windows will get them, Steve is confident that everyone will have ample office space. Offices that provide support functions will be housed in locations that are convenient both for the staff and for the divisions with which they work.

To that end, the USIC, F&A staff, and OZ Architecture are working with divisions and programs to make sure that the new space is a good fit for everyone. UCAR is in the process of hiring an experienced facilities project manager to oversee the implementation of the strategic space plan.

“We think that those people who move will be very pleased with their new offices,” says Steve.

•David Hosansky

Also in this issue...

Returning to Center Green


A look back at FL's beginnings

NCAR receives national FAA award

Random Profile: Allen Schanot

Helping Alaskans adjust to climate change

From Bombay to Boulder

Delphi Questions

Short takes

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