Although the UC Merced campus is entering its ninth academic year, the campus is still in a constant state of expansion.
To fill a demand for more housing, the newest residence hall — Half Dome — was recently completed and will increases on-campus housing capacity by 30 percent.
Half Dome is now home to 530 undergraduate students, like political science major Jason Chulack from Thousand Oaks.
“In 50 years from now, I will be able to say I was one of the first residents of Half Dome at UC Merced and that alone is pretty amazing,” he said.
The freshman created the UC Merced Class of 2017 Facebook page in April, and that’s where he met his roommates, Brock Puente and Connor Babcock. The trio decided to make the campus’s newest residence hall home.
The first through third floors of the building are home to first-year students; continuing students occupy the top two floors, a mix that director of Housing and Residence Life Leslie Santos said will be a benefit. The presence of returning students shows the freshmen a different aspect of things and provides a great resource. Her department worked diligently to increase the number of returning students who chose to live on campus.
“I think we sold them with the views,” said Santos, referring to the spectacular vistas from almost every corner of Half Dome.
At five stories, it is the tallest residence hall to be built on campus. Taking advantage of UC Merced’s pastoral surroundings, bright lounges and study rooms are strategically located on every floor with seemingly endless windows. The location of the common areas encourage residents to engage in collaborative projects and study in groups.
“Half Dome is a significant addition to our developing student neighborhood,” said Thomas Lollini, campus architect and associate vice chancellor for Design and Construction. “Its height and profile mark its unique and important location at the northwest corner of campus development, taking advantage of views out to Lake Yosemite and beyond to the thousands of acres of permanently preserved vernal pool grasslands.”
The state-of-the-art building complements the adjacent Tenaya and Cathedral residence halls that opened in 2010. Together, the three Summits buildings form an exterior courtyard that provides access to both sun and shade and a small stepped seating area that could be used for performances, outdoor classes, or other events.
Similar to other residence halls on campus, Half Dome boasts a game room with tables for billiards, ping-pong and foosball, and four TV screens for gaming. All common areas are open to all residents. A new feature exclusive to Half Dome is a refreshment area with a hydration station, microwave, ice machine and vending machines with 24-hour CatCard access.
The building will have a passenger drop off/loading zone at the main entrance off Ranchers Road. This will help students who are being picked up or dropped off, or need to unload items.
Another addition is enclosed bike storage, which is CatCard accessible and available to all on-campus residents.
With the addition of the newest hall, the campus can provide beds for 2,100 students, including approximately 70 percent more space for continuing students from previous years. More students residing on campus means fewer students commuting. Overall, this will lessen the campus’s carbon footprint.
Another way UC Merced is working to achieve its sustainability goals is by equipping the building with the framework to receive a solar array, which will provide energy for the complex.
“This array will be installed in the coming year, as part of a larger project to retrofit multiple campus buildings with solar power as the campus moves toward its goal of achieving Zero Net Energy by 2020,” Lollini said.
Lollini and others will begin planning the next phases of housing that will accommodate another 1,500 students as part of the 2020 Project.