By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – If you think the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s new STEM building is impressive now, wait until you see the finished product.
UNK is just a few months away from unveiling the 90,000-square-foot space that will house its construction management, industrial distribution, interior and product design, aviation, cyber systems, mathematics and statistics, physics, astronomy and engineering programs.
“It’s taking shape fast,” said College of Business and Technology Dean Tim Jares, who’s kept a close eye on the progress from nearby West Center.
Jares and other UNK officials toured the three-story science, technology, engineering and math facility last week, and they were equally excited by what they saw.
“This building is state-of-the-art throughout,” Jares said. “Not only will it be attractive for students, it will also be attractive for faculty, which is important.”
Led by general contractor Hausmann Construction of Lincoln, construction of the STEM building is expected to be substantially complete in May, leaving only punch-list items to address. Programs will begin transitioning to the new building that month, and the project should be finalized by the start of fall classes in August.
Construction management, industrial distribution, interior and product design, aviation and cyber systems are currently located in the 65-year-old Otto C. Olsen building, which has been on the state’s capital construction replacement list for more than 20 years. Mathematics and statistics is moving from Warner Hall, and physics, astronomy and engineering are shifting from Bruner Hall of Science.
Jares said the “best-in-class” STEM facility will deliver a shot in the arm for these programs, putting them in a highly visible space with cutting-edge technology.
“The STEM building is designed very specifically for these strong programs,” he said.
Part of a $30 million project that replaces Otto Olsen, the STEM building will promote collaboration and innovation across numerous academic departments, creating an environment that allows students and faculty to share ideas and research that advance UNK’s mission and benefit the entire state.
“It’s truly a collaborative, cross-disciplinary use of functions,” said University of Nebraska architect Alan Wedige, comparing the STEM building to the Health Science Education Complex that opened in 2015 on the southwest corner of the UNK campus. That facility addresses health care needs through a team approach involving UNK Health Sciences and the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Nursing and College of Allied Health Professionals.
Inside UNK’s STEM building, lab and classroom spaces are designed to meet each program’s specific needs while maintaining a level of flexibility for collaborative projects. The building also features a number of glass enclosures, allowing students, faculty and visitors to observe lab and instructional work from outside the room.
“The programs will be showcased more so people can see and hopefully be inspired by the activity that’s going on in these spaces,” Wedige said.
Like the Health Science Education Complex, the STEM building has plenty of natural lighting and open areas where students can study, interact with classmates and attend events. Because of its size and location – between West Center and Ockinga Hall – the STEM facility also offers stunning views of the UNK campus.
“There are some views and angles that will be created that we haven’t had before,” said Lee McQueen, director of UNK Facilities Management and Planning. “Those by themselves will be cool.”
Funding for the STEM project comes from renewal bonds and through state appropriation from LB858, the University of Nebraska Facilities Program of 2016. That appropriation directed deferred maintenance funding to facility replacement projects, including the Otto Olsen building.
— Doug Kristensen (@KristensenDoug) January 25, 2020
UNK STEM BUILDING
Construction start: May 2018
Opening: August 2020
Cost: Part of a $30 million project replacing Otto C. Olsen
Size: 90,000 square feet
Location: West of 19th Avenue between University Drive and U.S. Highway 30. It is on the west end of UNK’s campus, northeast of West Center and south of Ockinga Hall.
Replaces: Otto C. Olsen, which was built in 1955 and has been on the state’s capital construction replacement list for more than 20 years
Funding: It is paid for by renewal bonds and through state appropriation from LB858, the University of Nebraska Facilities Program of 2016. That appropriation directed deferred maintenance funding to facility replacement projects, including the Otto Olsen building.
Academic programs: Construction management, industrial distribution, interior and product design, aviation, cyber systems, mathematics and statistics, physics, astronomy and engineering