Facilities master plan

Survey highlights hot – and less-than-hot – spots at Berkeley Engineering

The Bechtel Engineering Center is widely considered by students to be the heart of Berkeley Engineering’s neighborhood on the UC Berkeley campus, one of many insights that emerged from a survey sent out to all faculty, staff and students in February.

While Bechtel, home to Engineering Student Services, was a central hub for many community members, some respondents noted that it was small in relation to its role. Another important gathering and meeting location, according to survey respondents, is the West Plaza near Sutardja Dai Hall. At the same time, many respondents expressed a desire for more areas, at both indoor and outdoor public spaces, where people can sit, eat and study.

The community survey, created by architectural design firm Payette, was a key part of the college’s process to update its facilities master plan. The college began collaborating with Payette in January on the update.  (View the slide deck [PDF] )  from Payette's presentation on the survey results.)

“The most recent facilities master plan for the college dates back to 2002, so it is past time to update and revitalize it,” said Tsu-Jae King Liu, dean of engineering. “The survey results will inform our strategy for renovating existing spaces and planning for new buildings over the next 15 years. Our goal is to create spaces that are welcoming and inspiring to foster discovery, creativity and innovation. One potential plan is to upgrade Bechtel into a more dynamic hub for visitors.”

More than 800 respondents provided input on how they utilize the indoor and outdoor spaces of the college, revealing popular pathways and gathering spots, as well as areas that may need more attention.

Not surprisingly, newer buildings fared better in popularity ratings, with places like Jacobs Hall, Sutardja Dai Hall and Blum Hall in the “liked” category, while less affection was shown for aging or opaque structures like Davis Hall, Etcheverry Hall, O’Brien Hall and Hesse Hall.

Respondents expressed a desire for more informal learning spaces mixed with classrooms, noting that classrooms are locked and unavailable as study spaces after hours.

Many expressed safety as a concern in Northside areas, particularly the parking garages and the bus stop on Hearst Ave. Some expressed a desire for more patrols, bike lanes and improved lighting of frequently used pathways.

Overall, the survey responses showed support for renewing and upgrading facilities, with a specific call for more daylight and transparency, and increased informal work and gathering spaces to enhance opportunities for interdisciplinary discourse and research.

College leadership will continue to work with Payette to incorporate the survey results into various scenarios for renovating existing spaces and building new ones. The goal is to have an exciting vision for the future of the college and a phased plan for its implementation by the end of June.