Billion Dollar Baby: UC Merced Reaches Substantial Completion

On June 1st, 2020, the UC Merced team successfully achieved substantial completion on the 2020 campus expansion.

June 9, 2020

Project Updates

Time flies when you’re having fun.

It’s hard to believe that four years ago we were celebrating the monumental proposal win of the UC Merced campus expansion project. The world is certainly in a different place now than it was in the summer of 2016.

But despite all the challenges and obstacles, on June 1st, 2020, the UC Merced team successfully achieved substantial completion on the 2020 campus expansion, just in time for the Fall 2020 academic year.

Billion Dollar Baby

With a total value of over one billion dollars, UC Merced’s 2020 Campus Expansion is the largest project ever awarded to Webcor.

As a part of a public-private partnership (P3) team, Webcor joined forces with developer and equity provider Plenary Group and lead campus planner Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) for this widespread expansion of the UC Merced campus. The design-build project adds over 1.2 million gross square feet of teaching, research, resident, and student-support facilities to the existing campus, spanning over three consecutive phases, and earning five LEED Platinum certifications so far – with five more Platinum awards expected this year.

Phase 1, which wrapped up in July 2018, saw the completion of the Dining Pavilion, Glacier Point Student Housing, and Granite Pass Student Housing totaling 290,000 gsf.  By August 2019, the team had completed Phase 2 – covering 285,000 gsf for a new wet-laboratory, computational laboratory buildings, research server, and an outdoor competition field.

Finally, the team wrapped up Phase 3 this week, delivering a new wet-lab building and greenhouse, a student wellness and counseling center, 980 new beds in two student housing buildings, 630 new parking spaces, a conference center, a student enrollment center, a swimming pool, and outdoor recreation courts.

Altogether, a staggering 3,200,000 field hours were worked, with 82% of hours worked by residents of the San Joaquin Valley – providing an indispensable boost to the local economy.

Building a Dream Team

Successful delivery of a project this size would not be possible without a first-class team.

Key Design-Build subcontractors included Cupertino Electric, Critchfield Mechanical (HVAC), FM Booth (Plumbing), Western States Fire Protection, Lyles Mechanical (site utilities), Cal Drywall, Webcor Concrete, ISEC (FF&E), Brightview, and Goodfellow.

Additionally, Webcor placed a great emphasis on employing the local labor workforce, including 17 San Joaquin Valley subcontractors as well as recruiting employees from local companies and universities.

“We brought in a lot of amazing talent from other companies and hired a bunch of incredible engineers from UC Merced, Fresno State, and other surrounding colleges,” recalls Sr. Project Manager Erik Biczkow. “Everyone had their own ideas and core values to offer which was challenging. But, over time, we all gelled together and truly became a full team of Webcor employees with one goal in mind who were all invested in Webcor’s Core Values.”

Many Webcorians, including Sr. Project Accountant Ruby Villegas, choose to relocate to Merced for the opportunity to work on the project. Looking back, Ruby is grateful that she decided to take the leap.  

“I’m so proud of the huge impact we have made in Merced,” Ruby notes. “Not just with building these beautiful buildings but also the huge impact on the community by putting over three million hours worked in this area and the community outreach events we were a part of.”

Community Impact

Beginning work in a new community was a responsibility that that Webcor didn’t take lightly. From the moment of the project’s groundbreaking, the UC Merced team fully committed to giving back to the local community.

In an effort to build the next generation of construction professionals, Webcorians hosted a “Take Your Kid to Work Day” and held a booth at the Merced High School Career fair each year, where employees shared their experiences working in the industry. Over the course of construction, local students from Dinuba and Merced High Schools were invited for tours of the project and participated in hands-on building activities with project staff.

Throughout the last four years, Webcorians partnered with the Merced Boys and Girls Club, Merced Food Bank, volunteered at the Society of Women Engineers “Expanding Your Horizons” event and gave away school supplies at the Chamber of Commerce Kids’ Backpack Giveaway.

“We handed out back packs and school supplies to kids that can’t afford them for the school year,” recalls Ruby. “Seeing the kids’ faces light up because they have a new bag pack to start the school year was priceless.

A Lasting Legacy

As work on the Merced Campus begins to wind down and team members move to other projects, the UC Merced team reflects on the strong bond they formed over the last four years.

“This was my first project, and now last project, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend the last four years with,” shares former Project Coordinator Sharon Chandra, who recently transitioned to a new role as a Learning & Development Coordinator.

“We didn’t just complete a project, we created a community that required immense teamwork and a huge amount of trust to accomplish,” adds Erik.

Although the project may be nearing its completion, the legacy these Webcorians leave will remain for years to come.

“UC Merced has the highest percentage of first-generation students, and is the system’s most ethnically diverse campus,” said UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland at the beginning of the project. “The Merced 2020 Project will allow us to serve even more students, while supporting our campus’s commitment to sustainability and further expanding the economic and educational impact we’ve already made in the San Joaquin Valley.”