Patel Center offers green home for administrators

Though the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions is meant to leave an impressionon visiting scholars, the building itself is designed to have a limited impact on the environment.

University spokesman Michael Hoad said certain administrative departments began moving things from the second floor of the current administration building to the Patel Center, which was built using sustainable methods around Dec. 13 as scheduled. Some administration departments will continue to move to the center over the next few months, he said, though not all will leave the current building.

Hoad said the first two floors of the new building are comprised of the Patel Center itself and USF World, which is a pooling of all of USF’s international initiatives.

The third floor includes general counsel, university communications, administrative servicesand government relations, and the fourth floor includes the president and provost’s offices and the business and finance department.

The building was not originally intended to become a new home for University President Judy Genshaft and other administrative officers; however, the decision to make the move was made after it was determined that the international programs wouldn’t have enough money to put offices in the first two floors, Hoad said.

“(The offices) were originallygoing to be ‘shelled out,'” he said. “So the president wantedto move out of administration and free up the building for core academic stuff, in this case the Honors College.”

The Honors College, which is currently located in the Student Services Building, has grown “very fast,” Hoad said, and is a “successful program that’s stuck in a very small space in one of the oldest buildings on campus and can’t accommodate the growth of the program.”

The Honors College will make the move after the administration building undergoes renovations over the next few months, he said.

“You could argue that the Honors College could have gone to the Patel Center, but the truth is the college sort of needs to remain in the middle of campus where students can get to it and interact with Dean Silverman and the people who are part of it,” Hoad said. “So it made more sense for it to go there.”

Stuart Silverman, dean of the Honors College, said their current accommodations are about 20 offices, with some people sharing offices, and two classrooms – a number that will increase with the move to the administration building for the roughly 1,700 students enrolled in the Honors College, as well as the graduate school.

“We hope to get four or five classrooms,” Silverman said. “So that the space can be a place (where) students can congregate and can take their classes so that their advisors are nearby, (where) the faculty that teach them are nearby and we can create even more of a family feeling.”

Silverman said he is not sure when the move will take place, but that it should only take a few days, depending on what furniture will be provided for them in the administration building.

“As long as our computers are there – we’ll only miss a day,” he said.

For prospective students, Silverman said the administration building is a “fantastic location” that will allow them to find offices more easily and interact with graduate students regularly.

“Honors College (students) disproportionately (also) end up in graduate school, so being located with the graduate school means that these students will have information available, they’ll have counseling available and advising available for graduate school,” he said. “It will help them for that. And for me it’s a lovely building with the fountains in the middle, it’s kind of a very pleasant place, I like it.”

While the Honors College renovations are underway, the Patel Center is setting a “new standard” for construction on campus because of its use of sustainable materials and practices, University spokeswoman Vickie Chachere said.

Finishing touches on the center, which began construction in June 2009, are scheduled to be completed in March 2011. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the shell of the building was covered by a $5 million donation from Kiran and Pallavi Patel and was matched by $5 million in state funds.

Chachere said the center was built by Charles Perry Construction in collaboration with Ponikvar Associates, who were both the architects and the interior designers.

As the first fully “green” constructed building on the Tampa campus, she said USF is trying to obtain a Gold Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification a voluntary, consensus-based standard to support and certify successful green building design, construction and operations, according to the U.S. Green Building Council website – in Spring 2011 once the building is complete.

A few of the sustainableaspects of the buildingare “Florida-friendly,” or water-conscious, landscaping with pine needles for mulch and a 30,000-gallon water tank buried under the buildingthat collects rain water and condensation from the air conditioner to flush the toilets, Chachere said.

The center also used many recycled materials in it’s construction, including the steel used in the building, carpets, wood paneling and recycled glass murals, and was positioned to catch the sun at all times of the day to utilize solar power.

“(The construction crew) made an effort to minimize the transportation of construction products and bought materials from manufacturers within a 500-mile radius of Tampa so they were not expending a lot of fuel in bringing the products here,” Chachere said. “So they were reducing their (carbon) footprint.”

Each floor of the building is decorated according to a different theme based roughly on the four elements, she said. The first floor’s theme is “earth,” the second’s is “water,” the third’s is “air” and the fourth’s, where Genshaft’s office will be located, is “energy.”

The Interdisciplinary Science Teaching and Research Facility will also be “green,” Chachere said, and the University hopes to get a Platinum LEED certification once it’s finished in August. Renovations to the Sun Dome will also be sustainable and will be managed through the athletics department.