UW Bothell expands for science

BOTHELL — A crowd of students gathered Wednesday afternoon at the University of Washington Bothell campus.

With help from Holly the Husky, Chancellor Bjong Wolf Yeigh pulled a tarp from a bronze letter “W.” Nearby, a construction crew was picking up tools and garbage from the campus’ new Discovery Hall.

“This is your building,” Yeigh said. “This is your ‘W.’”

The new 75,000-square-foot science and academic building will get a thorough inspection Friday, an important step in preparing for students and faculty.

The $68 million Discovery Hall hosts five classrooms and 11 lecture halls. It’s the third building on the UW Bothell campus. Gov. Jay Inslee and UW President Michael Young will attend a dedication and ribbon cutting at 11:30 a.m. today.

The first expansion to the campus in 14 years, Discovery Hall is more of a necessity than a luxury for UW Bothell, a burgeoning education destination for students in Snohomish and King counties.

This year’s full-time enrollment is 4,216, up 11 percent from last year and 73 percent since 2009. Four hundred more students attend part-time.

“We were growing at a rate that capacity was becoming an issue,” said Kelly Snyder, assistant vice chancellor for government and community relations. “The first two buildings were built for 1,800 students. Even a couple years ago, when we were at 3,000, we were over-capacity.”

Discovery Hall has room for an estimated 1,000 students throughout a normal school day.

Funding came from a mix of sources: $25 million from state taxpayers, $9 million through selling some UW property, and $30 million from a bond sale.

Discovery Hall will be home to the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). UW Bothell has recently added five STEM degrees, including mathematics, cyber security and mechanical engineering.

“As we talked to Microsoft and Boeing and all of the other great industries in this region — including Philips (Healthcare) — we knew they needed more engineers and scientists,” Snyder said.

“We had very few labs on this campus, so when we thought about what this building would be, labs were a very important part of that,” she said.

Speaking over jackhammers and dodging traffic cones has become part of the everyday routine for UW Bothell students in recent years. The construction of Discovery Hall followed nine months of work on a sports complex below the campus, near a wetland. Next, the school is partnering with neighboring Cascadia Community College to build a $19.7 million student center.

Sustainability is a hallmark of UW Bothell, which offers a bevy of classes on the subject and maintains a wetland restoration project. The building plans for Discovery Hall tapped into the green-thinking.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on trying to reduce our energy use,” said Robin Wilcox, the architect for Discovery Hall.

The building features chilled beams that induce airflow and cool spaces. A rainwater collection system filters water down to the wetlands. Most of the lights have occupancy and daylight sensors to conserve energy.

Wilcox noted that the orientation of the building is fundamentally more efficient.

“The long side faces south and north, which is a big deal. It takes advantage of an optimal solar orientation to reduce your heating and cooling loads,” he said.

This also helps with accessibility. Since Discovery Hall sits on a hill with a 60-foot change in elevation from the first to the fifth floor, the orientation allows easy access to any of the first four floors. All future buildings on the campus will be designed the same way.

The construction crew will be gone by April if Friday’s inspection goes as planned. Some faculty are expected to start moving in as early as this week, but classes won’t be held in Discovery Hall until fall.

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