Construction of the Coastal Biology Building began this month near the Long Marine Lab. It is expected to be completed by May 2017. Photo by Jasper Lyons.
Construction of the Coastal Biology Building began this month near the Long Marine Lab. It is expected to be completed by May 2017. Photo by Jasper Lyons.

The construction of the new Coastal Biology Building on Santa Cruz’s Westside is underway. The two-year $73 million project will accommodate new facilities and resources for UC Santa Cruz’s ecology and evolutionary biology department (EEB).

The Coastal Biology Building will support “research and teaching on coastal conservation, ecology, habitat restoration, climate change impacts and policy,” according to its project description. Steve Davenport, the assistant director of the Institute of Marine Sciences and manager of Long Marine Lab, said it will also reunite the physically divided EEB faculty and researchers.

“All the departments are growing, particularly the sciences,” Davenport said. This makes it more difficult for EEB faculty to be divided between the Ocean Health Building and the Long Marine Lab.

Davenport said the building will serve as a “central home” for the department.

The construction for the building alone is about $54 million and additional infrastructure improvements bring the total to $73 million. The project is funded by the University of California’s Capital Project Program, a systemwide organization that provides long-term investments for campuses to support capital budget strategies, land use and site planning.

After an eight-year planning process, the building was approved by the California Coastal Commission in 2009 and is the first major construction project under UCSC’s Coastal Long Range Development Plan (CLRDP). The plan foresees physical development and land use at the UCSC Marine Science Campus and the Younger Lagoon Reserve.

The allocated plot of land extends from the Seymour Center to the farm farther up north and includes the lagoon to the far west. The new addition to UCSC property will have greenhouses, terrariums and new salt and freshwater aquariums to house live specimens.

Pete Raimondi, the chair of the EEB department, looks forward to the completion of the building as 60 percent of the curriculum will move to the new facilities. Along with the new facilities, the classrooms will allow for more student participation.

“EEB is really focused on the last decade on trying to increase our delivery on field and experiential learning classes,” Raimondi said. “There will be a bunch of field-related and core experience learning classes facilitated here.”

Since the building will be constructed on land that sits on a thin layer of bedrock, workers will have to create Geopiers. These structures are installed by a drill and a vibrating compactor that moves engineered gravel vertically and horizontally to develop stabler ground for building.

Some community members are concerned about this construction process.

“[The marine mammals] hear it and could be disturbed, and that’s one of the things we’re looking out for,” said Davenport, the Institute of Marine Sciences assistant director and Long Marine Lab manager. “The people taking care of the animals will have their eyes wide open when that starts to see if they need to do something.”

Though pleased with what the building will offer, Maria Choy, the Long Marine Lab administrative manager, shared other concerns about the effect the ongoing construction will have on the public.

“Transportation will be a problem,” Choy said. “At the moment, the EEB department is renting a van for the faculty to come here once a week. They are thinking of working out a plan with the city and the Metro to see if we can have the bus come all the way here. Otherwise it’s a half-mile walk.”

Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis, the architectural firm for the Coastal Biology Building of San Francisco, designed UCSC’s Biomedical Sciences Building, the Science and Engineering Library and Colleges Nine and Ten.

“We’re advancing coastal and marine science, and now we’re understanding more and more about what we want to protect,” Davenport said. “If you want to protect it, you got to understand it — and you have to love it. We love what we know, and we protect what we love. So know your ocean.”