Building for the future

FIU has spent the past week welcoming 46,000 students to its campuses for the 2011 Fall Semester. The welcome banners are up, the bookstores are stacked with textbooks, and the Facilities Planning & Construction Department is working at full throttle.

During the summer, the department was involved in five major renovation projects, each costing $2 million or more.  There were also 164 minor projects.

GC 140 before and after (above), and GC 150 before and after (below)

A highlight of the projects undertaken by the Facilities team was the renovation of two auditoriums used frequently by students:  GC 140 and GC 150 in the Graham Center at Modesto A. Maidique Campus (MMC). GC 150 serves as the senate chamber for the Student Government Association.

“Both rooms now offer the latest in academic infrastructure, especially in audiovisual resources,” says Carlos G. Aspillaga, senior project manager and the man responsible for both renovations.

Thirty-seven speakers were installed in the two spaces, 29 of them in GC 140. In addition, 653 acoustical panels were installed, guaranteeing a five-star sound quality in the auditoriums.

“Both rooms will provide state-of-the-art technology,” says Andre Rodrigues, assistant director of media communications for GC. “The FIU community will have HD projection, digital sound and video conferencing capabilities.”

To make it all work, 78,000 feet of electrical cable was used for both classrooms. To put that number in perspective, if Hansel and Gretel were to use the cable to leave a trail, it would cover the distance from MMC to Miami Metro Zoo.

Another high-profile project completed over the summer was the renovation of GL 100. The 30-year-old room needed considerable upgrades. Patty Ruiz, senior project manager responsible for the renovation, said it was not an easy project, but it all came together “magnificently.”

“Students will have better technology, lighting, air quality and overall a greater learning experience,” Ruiz says.

GL 100 before and after

Sylvia Berenguer, director of the Construction Minor Projects Department, says these renovations are vital to the university’s core business.

“The way in which people learn and teach has changed during the years,” she adds. “Media plays a critical part in the classroom.”

At Biscayne Bay Campus, the Facilities team is changing the library windows on the second and third floors, in part to provide a boost in energy savings. Made of impact-resistant glass and tinted to reflect the heat, the new windows are angled differently to better prevent water from entering the building. This change has altered the exterior look of the building.

“Part of the improvement is being felt already with the temperature and humidity control within the library,” said Ana G. Mendoza, associate dean for Administrative Operations and Budget for FIU Libraries.

The project is scheduled for completion in November.

Home Improvement

For those living on campus, a noticeable change is the new coat of paint on the University Apartments. Approximately 3,800 gallons of paint were used to create the fresh pinkish-orange look – the equivalent of 40,520 soda cans worth of paint.


By the end of the semester, the U.S. Century Bank Arena will get a new lobby after 25 years of service. It is expected to be ready for the start of the 2011 basketball season in November.

New Locations

The MMC and BBC renovations complement the university’s growing reach in the community. FIU Downtown on Brickell, one of the university’s newest off-campus sites, occupies three floors at 1101 Brickell Ave. The university offers several master’s degree programs at the signature space, including the new Master of Arts in Global Governance. The facility encompasses 32,000 square feet of classrooms, case rooms, faculty and administrative offices and dining facilities.

Later this year, the College of Architecture + The Arts (CARTA) will take up residence in 16,000 square feet of space at 420 Lincoln Road in South Beach. A 1940s Art Deco icon, the building is just blocks from the New World Symphony, The Wolfsonian-FIU and the Bass Art Museum. The facility will house a design studio and a gallery with exhibition and performance space as well as studio space for graduate visual arts students, music practice rooms and an ensemble room that will enhance CARTA’s collaboration with the New World Symphony.