When programs, colleges, or departments at The University of New Mexico are in need of a new or renovated facility, the staff at Planning, Design, and Construction (PDC) are here to do the “heavy lifting” to launch and carry forward these projects. Campus planning proves challenging when priorities quickly change but the PDC staff are the University experts at designing and building higher education facilities in the modern, digital age. 

Large building projects on university campuses are unique because of the way facilities are used, the reasons they are built, the health and safety codes required, ADA requirements, and state mandates. They are built to last many decades. Universities the size of UNM are “high-traffic” communities with tens of thousands of users every week, therefore the buildings need to withstand this kind of use and continue to be functional and operational while maintaining a clean and kept look for generations to come.

Additionally, the students of today are changing the way professors teach, they are demanding more technology in their residence halls, classrooms, and outdoor spaces and they want those spaces to be flexible and move with them. The PDC professionals understand the many intricacies of building state-of-the-art facilities on campus and know how to create functional buildings with spaces that can accommodate the wide variety of pedagogies and learning trends that are sweeping higher education. With over $180-million recently invested in the campus infrastructure, UNM and its’ students have made the decision to attract the best of the best in academics and research with its new state-of-the-art facilities.

“We know that when a prospective student or faculty member is considering The University of New Mexico, a lot of their decision is based on the condition of the facilities found on campus,” said Rick Henrard, director of PDC. “First impressions make a big impact when making these kinds of life and career decisions.”

There are three major construction projects in progress at The University of New Mexico: Farris Engineering Center Renovation, Health Education Building Phase 3, and McKinnon Center for Management @ ASM; with three more in the planning stages: Physics, Astronomy and Interdisciplinary Sciences (PAIS), Smith Plaza & Union Square improvement, and the Johnson Center Expansion & Renewal. 

PDC plays an essential role in defining what a project is, what the budget can buy, what the perceived needs and wants are and how to make them happen, all while transforming the experience students, staff and faculty will have when using the new facility. Often times, PDC is the catalyst in changing the vision of what is possible, accommodating all the particular variants offered by stakeholders in the most responsible way. It is this collaboration and dialogue that moves the project in a more innovative and creative direction for the new space as well as the surrounding environments. This was especially true during the planning stages of the Farris Engineering Center renovation, currently under construction.

“The folks at PDC are experts in understanding what can be done but they are also up on what new facilities look like for engineering, and that was very helpful,” said Joseph Cecchi, the Jim & Ellen King Dean of Engineering & Computing. “From start to finish, it’s PDC that’s the intermediary between us and our needs and getting the job done.”

Collaboration is essential when taking on such a task. In order to construct a useable, highly sought after building, UNM stakeholders and development professionals must work together to define and develop, construct and move-in to these large capital buildings. These stakeholders include:

  • Building Users (faculty, staff, students, community)
  • Campus Planners
  • Project Manager
  • Design Team (Architect/Engineers)
  • Construction Contractors
  • Furniture/Equipment Contractors
  • Movers
  • University Administrators

Despite innovative modern design, PDC understands and values the importance of honoring campus traditions and history. Spaces and buildings must reflect the University’s identity and provide the avenues to conduct “business as usual” all while allowing for growth and change at the same time. One example of campus tradition is the unique pueblo-revival style of architecture found across the campus, UNM being the only major university in the United States to sport this style.

“UNM has traditions and deep-rooted ideas about who we are. Our identity should never be ignored and always highly valued. What we can do as visionaries in our field is move our physical environment to a place that expresses who we are while moving us into the future,” says Amy Coburn, University architect/director of PDC.

Flexible facility planning responds to current educational trends and is fiscally responsible, but also has to be in-line with the University’s mission and vision of the future. Henrard explained that it takes months of planning to assess the needs of the UNM faculty, administration and students. The goal, according to Henrard, is to build a responsible building that is aesthetically pleasing and functional for the variety of activities that occur on a university campus.

Henrard explains, “Balancing available funds, a program’s needs and wants, smart planning and building strategies all have to be weighed before these large construction projects can move forward.”