Friday September 13, 2002
Technique - The South's Liveliest College NewspaperFocus

Tech’s construction boom explained


Construction projects abound around Tech, including this new building being erected as part of the Whitaker Biomedical Engineering building.

By Christine Rutz Contributing Writer

Within the last year, everyone at Georgia Tech has noticed the dramatic increase in construction projects around campus: if you live on West campus, it’s SAC II and the new Student Health Center; if you live on East campus, it’s the renovations to Bobby Dodd Stadium and the new Engineering, Science and Technology Building by the baseball stadium; and if you commute, it’s the brand new “Technology Square” across the interstate on Fifth Street that has you dodging manhole covers and dump trucks.

“The Olympics were a warm-up for what we’re doing now,” said Donald P. Alexander, Manager of Facilities Engineering, on the plethora of construction projects on Tech’s campus.

One of the integral parts of any university planning system is its “Master Plan;” however, the master plan is a living document and is continuously revised. The system actually dates back to 1912, when the first master plan for Tech’s campus was conceived.

As the needs of the campus have changed, so have the master plans-notable updates to the plan occurred in 1952, 1965, 1991 and, most recently, in 1997 under President Wayne Clough. You can view the previous and current plans for campus at

In 1997, Clough outlined a seven part strategic plan for Georgia Tech. One facet of the plan was to improve the infrastructure of campus to make more effective use of space and to upgrade existing facilities. Once the strategic plan was set in motion, an analysis on several levels has determined the specifics of the improvements.

Mike Patterson, Director of Design and Construction, explained that the first analysis determined what improvements were necessary academically; from there, the campus was divided into sectors for a more detailed analysis of the existing buildings and space.

Throughout the analyzing process, the financing for all these costly projects had to be considered. As a member of the University System of Georgia, Tech is entitled to governmental resources, but this is not sufficient for all the improvements called for in the master plan.

Major portions of the funding for projects such as Technology Square come from an entity called the “Capital Campaign,” whose goal included raising $600,000,000 from alumni, individual, foundation and corporation contributions, with $110,000,000 of that allocated for campus facilities and equipment.

The Capital Campaign is run by the Georgia Tech Foundation; most students are familiar with this foundation because it’s where all of the Roll Call donations go.

Because Roll Call funds are predominantly “unrestricted” monies, meaning they can be allocated as the institution chooses, some of our donations to Roll Call end up in the Capital Campaign. Money from the campaign is used as collateral for construction loans; eventually, revenue from the bookstore, hotel and conference center will repay the loans.

Generally, educational and research facilities are financed by the state, with assistance from private donors. For example, the Clouse Advanced Computing Building was originally funded by a private donor, with the state kicking in the balance of the funds. Student fees and entities like the Capital Campaign support auxiliary facilities such as student housing and recreational buildings.

Once the funding is in place, the selection process for architects and contractors can start. For large projects, a project management committee places an advertisement for the job. Interested companies respond and prepare bids for the contract. After an initial evaluation, the finalists make a presentation before the committee as the deciding factor.

Amazingly enough, the number of Tech grads working for a company has no influence as to the committee’s selection. Rather, the committee simply assumes that any reputable engineering, construction or architectural firm in Atlanta will have Tech grads on the staff.

Projects are prioritized based on academic and physical needs of the campus.Before any construction project can begin, Georgia Tech must get permission from the Georgia Board of Regents, the governing body of all state schools. Some of the factors that go in to the prioritization of large scale construction projects are the capital value potential for Georgia Tech, the academic or auxiliary need and the requirements of the Board of Regents.

Finally, the big question on the minds of all the students living in East campus housing across from Bobby Dodd stadium-who makes the decision to leave the stadium lights on at night? Actually, it’s a technical reason-lights that size require a burn-in period to ensure that they are free from defects and that Tech won’t have an embarrassing light failure at its first night game.