Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) has been a key figure of the Charlotte, North Carolina landscape, for well over 50 years. Situated in the Mecklenburg County, the college was established with a clear vision – to be the national leader in workforce development, providing futures for students and the wider Charlotte-Mecklenburg region.
With facilities as old as half a century, it comes as no surprise to hear the college is currently undergoing a multi-million-dollar major construction project with the aim of improving learning environments and providing a greater number of modern classrooms and labs.
The college obtained a $210 million bond from Mecklenburg County, a general obligation bond, back in 2013, plus $70 million in other construction monies. This public funding has provided the college with 10 separate construction and refurbishment projects, and with an eye towards the future, the college is already working to gain additional funding to continue this process with another 8-10 projects in the pipeline.
Updating facilities and the overall college experience to suit the needs and demands of the modern world is one driving force, but for CPCC there is are also a state and county targets to consider. The state goal is for each community college to provide students with 100 sq. ft. per FTE (Full-Time Equivalent). Back in 2012, CPCC sat at 56 sq. ft. – some way off. Mecklenburg County’s goal stands at 90 sq. ft. per FTE.
“In order for us to fulfil the need of our 70,000 students, CPCC really needed to ramp things up, make more labs, more classrooms and provide those square footages,” says Vicki Saville, Associate Vice President for Facilities and Construction.
Following a career in private practice in architecture and landscape architecture as well as educational facilities design, Saville is now responsible for the maintenance of all 50 buildings over six campuses that CPCC has situated over in Mecklenburg County. She is also tasked with overseeing the 10 construction projects, two of which have already been completed.
Building a future
Currently under construction on CPCC’s Central Campus is the new Advanced Technology Center (ATC) an 80,000-square foot, $33 million building which will house mechatronics with advanced manufacturing labs, and STEM programs.
The ATC, a five-storey building began construction in November last year, will present an opportunity for CPCC to invite international technology companies to train and develop students in new technologies and equipment.
“The ATC is part of our workforce development. Through partnering with these companies and agencies we are training our students and in some cases, providing them with jobs that may even take them out internationally.”
Starting construction later this spring is Central Campus’s new Education Center, a 150,000-square-foot, $56-million project primarily devoted to Basic Skills and Literacy education.
“As a community college, we pride ourselves on enabling people to get jobs, take care of themselves and change lives,” Saville says.
Under construction on their Levine Campus, Levine 3, an 85,000-square-foot, $32-million project, will include a performance hall, classrooms and labs, and at the Harper Campus, Harper 4 is a 90,000-square-foot, $41-million project devoted to building trades, welding and construction management education.
Workforce development, the development of students and people to gain skills which enrich and better their lives is the philosophy behind every decision Saville and CPCC make. The obligation bond represents an opportunity to better serve students and the community through state of the art facilities but also to attract and serve more students in the long run.
When designing, planning and beginning construction on a campus with building ages as mixed as CPCC, challenge is inescapable. With demolition and construction taking place on an active college campus, time and safety are is a major issues.
CPCC strives to schedule and complete all construction in conjunction with the timing of semester starts for optimum efficiencies of contact hours, but Saville also acknowledges that with a county bond comes expectations, and county control.
“Mecklenburg County is our funder and they dictate when they provide the funding to us,” she says. “Naturally we aim to avoid clashing with the running of the college programmes, but in new facilities construction it really is dictated by the timing of monies released by the county.”
Another challenge, as with many construction projects across the US, has been inflation and the impact it has had on construction costs. This, unfortunately, has seen CPCC lose 20 percent of its originally stated programmed square footage. This is no more evident than in the new Education Centre, which was originally intended to be eight storeys high but CPCC can now only afford to build five.
“It really has been cut cut cut and trim trim trim where we can. Bring programs in line and eliminate some programs, but we take stock, adjust and continue to meet the needs of the educators,” Saville says, undeterred.
A wave of innovation
Saville has been keen to introduce new and innovative elements to CPCC and really bring the college into the 21st century. At Cato Campus, in the new 80,000-sq. ft. classroom building, the design team introduced furniture with portable plug in ports for electronic devices and tablets, which represents a move into the 21st century for Saville.
“It’s just a real wave of the future, one where the furniture becomes a major part of teaching facilities,” she says.
Powered by partners
For any company taking on a major construction project of the size and calibre of the work CPCC is undertaking, working with the best partners is key to obtaining the best results. These key partners include Walter B Davis Company, which has been an integral part of CPCC’s swing-space management construction. This construction is the conversion of a first-floor parking deck into office space, which will house 30 college employees.
CPCC have worked with Moseley Architects as the designers for Levine 3, which upon completion will be the college's first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Design) Certified building to open in 2018.
No college can operate without serious consideration for the safety and security of its students and staff. This is where Security 101 comes in. The company has been with the College for over a decade monitoring fire alarms and providing other life safety services to protect CPCC’s buildings and its staff and students and visitors.
Sustaining a future
A key component of CPCC’s construction projects has a focus on the removal of energy inefficient buildings.
“Energy efficiency and sustainability is very much rooted in what we do,” Saville continues. “We have partnered with an ESCO (Energy Service Company) for two Performance Contracts, PC1 and PC2. The college’s existing platforms for monitoring energy and water consumption and waste have been upgraded to monitor and measure usages and begin to track them better. It is a major goal of ours to become more responsible with our utility usage.” In the first four years, PC1 has saved $41k, and PC2 $16k thus far.
This commitment is exemplified in each department of the college operating under its own sustainable efforts. For example, all of the food waste from the Culinary and Baking and Pastry Arts departments is recycled into a local farm which turns it into compost which is then sold. CPCC is also committed to recycling as much of its solid waste materials as possible to avoid the landfill.
The needs of the many
Any company can talk the sustainable talk, but CPCC has been continuously recognised for its efforts on this front. In April 2016, CPCC was awarded first place in the Community Sustainability Award by Sustain Charlotte, as recognition of the college’s reduction in energy consumption since 2006 by 15 percent.
As a community college that sits right in the heart of the Charlotte community, being a community enabler is right there in the name.
The community well and truly is, as Saville calls it, the “lifeblood” of CPCC.
“It’s who we are, it’s what we do. If our local businesses don’t support us then we’d be out of business,” she says.
CPCC takes on a number of students and staff from local business and provides training opportunities for them. The college’s strategic process is dictated by the needs of workforce development.
“We aim to mirror where the jobs are most vital, anywhere where people and students need to get be working, that’s where we will push,” says Saville.
The construction projects ultimately serve the community. The funds come from the county and Saville and her teams at CPCC are constantly asking themselves “have we earned the right to that money?”
“It’s a major effort of ours to open the campus to the community at every opportunity to show the work we are doing, and to really showcase a sense of what we are trying to achieve,” she says.
The core mission of CPCC in workforce development is providing the citizens with the education they need to get a job and give to the community. Saville is a true believer that CPCC is making society a better place, “one building, one classroom at a time”.
This is a feeling shared across every single representative of the college, from the architects to the construction and maintenance workers.
“There is no face, regardless of age, that isn’t wanting to do more for their family, and that makes me want to do everything I can to help them,” says Saville.