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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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Construction underway for new Warner College building

Architecture drawing of Michael Smith Natural Resource Building
A rendering of the Michael Smith Natural Resource Building Addition (Photo courtesy of SOURCE)

The Warner College of Natural Resources building is currently under construction to gain a new addition that is scheduled to open Fall 2018.  

The new addition will be named after Michael Smith who contributed $3.7 million to the project. Smith’s gift was a critical final donation, according to Rob Novak, director of communications for the Warner College of Natural Resources.


According to Novak, a majority of the funding for the building came from donors and the remainder of funding came from student fees and the University Facility Fee Advisory Board.

A centerpiece for the expansion will be a new home for the WCNR Student Success Center. Located on the first floor, it will be a visitor’s first encounter.

“As you come into the building you’ll be able to see the student success center right off the bat,” Novak said. “It will be a welcome desk for the college where people can ask for directions and where students can work with academic affairs and career services.”

Construction site in the middle of several buildings
View of the Warner renovation from the Computer Science building. (Field Peterson | Collegian)

Novak said it will also be a place that showcases what the college has to offer to prospective students. As WCNR continues to grow, new teaching labs will provide room to accommodate an increase in students.

“We are really trying to centralize the specimen labs we have throughout the college,” Novak said.

These include labs that focus on dendrology, geology or fish and wildlife studies. Novak said a new feature will allow teaching assistants to display specimens from labs to be viewed by students in various study locations, even after their class is over.

Other changes include the consolidation of the entire WCNR administrative staff to one location, a new home for the Center for Collaborative Conservation, several meeting rooms and a garage-style door on the fourth floor that will open to let in fresh air and provide a view of the Sherwood Forest below.      

Novak said that there is nothing wrong with the current building but the Warner College is outgrowing the space. Institutional research data indicates that there are 2,168 total students in the Warner College. This makes the WCNR one of the smallest departments student-wise but it has been steadily growing over the years.

Construction workers smoothing cement.
Construction workers work on The Warner College of Natural Resources building. (Megan Daly | Collegian)

Campus Architect Mike Rush said he believes the new design will better reflect the values of the Warner College.


“It was important to have a main entry that spoke to the mission of the college and (include) natural materials in connection with the outdoors.”

Novak said the addition will try blend in with the blocky architectural look of the current building: a style called brutalism. It will also incorporate exterior wood under the soffit and around a central beam, giving it a look unique to the college.

Creating a building that is sustainable was also a central goal for the new addition. Joy Wagner, the project manager at the Institute for the Built Environment, has been working to increase sustainability and comply with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards.

Wagner said the goal is to achieve a LEED silver rating, a rank that lies below the gold, and platinum awards. Some of the strategies they are trying to implement include water efficient restrooms, day-lighting and the use of sustainable wood products and construction materials.

Additional work to improve their LEED rating has to do with making a comfortable work environment for occupants of the building, according to Wagner. This could include work areas where individuals have control of their own light and temperature.

“People feel better in a space that they feel like they can control a little bit,” Wagner said.

A challenge that could limit the ability to reach gold and platinum standards comes from the fact that they are adding to the existing natural resource building. Wagner said this makes it difficult to reach higher energy efficiency standards, a heavily weighted category to LEED. 

Taking these goals and making them a reality now comes down to Pinkard Construction and 4240 Architecture, firms that have done work for CSU before. Rush said that these firms were able to satisfy the most requirements set forth in the University’s request for proposal: a set of documents outlining the project’s criteria.

Novak said students can expect construction until the opening next fall but the construction site will not expand and further increase congestion in that area. Novak said once complete, the Michael Smith Natural Resources building will be a prominent feature near the center of campus.

“For us, we want to make sure it serves the students well and we also think it will make a statement that Warner is an important part of the university and community,” Novak said.

Collegian news reporter Ty Betts can be reached at or on Twitter @TyBetts9.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the majority of funding for the Michael Smith Natural Resources Building came from student fees. A majority of funding came from donors, and the project received additional funding from student fees and the University Facility Fee Advisory Board.

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