EdCC hopes to build science building — finally

In a perfect world, the newest building at Edmonds Community College would have been built five years ago.

It wasn’t a perfect world five years ago.

The recession was still causing problems with the state budget, delaying projects like EdCC’s Science, Engineering and Technology Building or SET Building.

Even this year, college administrators had hoped the Legislature would give the greenlight to the $35 million, nearly 70,000-square-foot building. The SET Building was high on a prioritized list of projects by Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

It just missed the cut.

Now, the SET Building stands atop the list. Barring any unforeseen hiccups, the project should get the go-ahead in the coming legislative session.

If that happens, construction would start next year.

“We should potentially see the doors open by 2018,” said Kevin McKay, the college’s vice president of Finance and Operations.

It will be the first new construction on the campus at 20000 68th Ave. W, Lynnwood, since the college built Mukilteo Hall and the Black Box Theatre nearly a decade ago.

While the college’s overall enrollment has declined in recent years, the number of students entering Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, courses have increased.

For instance, in 2014, more than 300 new students entered into the college’s engineering program, bringing the total enrollment to 800 students. During the recession, students flocked to STEM programs because those degrees could help them get jobs.

“They wanted a job that was a viable job at the end of their career,” said Pat Burnett, the college’s Engineering Department head. “Students realized that STEM degrees were valuable and that’s what they were going for.”

The SET building across from Meadowdale Hall will stand three stories tall and provide office space as well as 11 new classrooms and nine laboratories for physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering and nursing courses.

“When this building got started, it was before the term STEM came into vogue,” McKay said. “But, for all intents and purposes, it is a STEM building.”

When you’re looking at jobs of the future, in most areas of the country, a good portion of the top-10 potential jobs are in STEM-related fields, said Carey Schroyer, the dean of EdCC’s STEM programs.

The new classrooms and laboratories will feature technology that will make students better prepared whether they leave for a job or go onto a four-year institution.

The new building is designed in innovative ways with inviting open spaces, she said.

Even if students don’t want to pursue a career in STEM-related fields, the new building creates a space for people to come together to learn, she said.

“One of my goals as the STEM dean is that STEM is for everyone,” Schroyer said. “Math or science is for everyone.”

The delay in construction has had one benefit. It’s given the college time to refine the project.

When the building was first envisioned a decade ago, it was going to be built in a space that would have caused the loss of 50 to 60 parking spaces. The architects, Schact Aflani, have designed the building to go over the college’s central utility plant, saving space. The college will still lose some parking, but much less, about 15 to 20 parking stalls.

The project is also designed to the highest green building standards with drought-tolerant landscaping and low-flow fixtures.

“My definition of what an engineer is is an artist who uses technology and math to make dot-dot-dot,” Burnett said.

He said the new hall will help students pursue that.

“Students need a place where they get to be creative,” he said. “They have to be able to explore and build things.”

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