CNCC campus project aims to enhance local college life
CNCC to run on geothermal power
The new Colorado Northwestern Community College Craig campus will be, to Gene Bilodeau's knowledge, the only college campus in Colorado to have geothermal energy power all of its heating and cooling.
The school plans to drill 60, 400-feet-deep holes across 38 acres of the new campus site, each of which will end inside a section of ground water.
Workers will then lay coils inside each of the drill sites, and each coil will have a special fluid inside.
As the fluid runs through the coils, it heats or cools to the same temperature as the ground water, which is relatively consistent throughout the year.
The fluid is then pumped up to what Bilodeau called small "power plant" installations, which uses the temperature of the fluid to heat or cool the buildings around it.
The system was introduced to CNCC staff by Chevron Energy Solutions, which started discussing the new Craig campus while working with Rangely campus officials.
The college doesn't have an estimate on how much building the geothermal infrastructure will cost, but Bilodeau said Chevron officials told him the system would pay for itself through energy savings in 11 years.
Scattered across the city are four rental spaces that total about $110,000 a year in rent for Colorado Northwestern Community College.
That’s not exactly the definition of a campus.
Wait until 2010, CNCC officials said, and the picture will look vastly different.
In the fall, CNCC officials plan to have a new, 18,000-square-foot, $3.8 million career technical center finished and open to the public.
The facility would house most of the college’s vocational programs – massage therapy, cosmetology, mine training, power plant, industrial electrician and energy technology curriculums – all of which are now spread across town in an assortment of places.
The only vocational program that will not be at the new campus next year is the auto technical course, which will remain at its current site behind K-Mart until the campus expands in the future.
The building will be paid for by a $1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and contributions from CNCC and private donors.
The technical center is the first leg of a $32 million project on the college’s new campus site – 38 acres off Ninth Street, west of Moffat County Road 7.
That project itself is the beginning of a larger overall design, slated to include as many as 18 academic buildings and four community buildings, built as demand warrants, said Gene Bilodeau, CNCC vice president of administration.
“This is a pedestrian campus,” he said. “What we’d like to have here is kind of an urban village feel.”
Plans include grassy walkways throughout the site. Future residence halls would have stores, restaurants and other commercial outlets on their bottom floors.
“Those would be almost along the lines of if you’re walking through the village at Vail,” Bilodeau said, referring to a section of the resort town that has apartments and hotels scattered among shops and eateries.
The key to building the new campus, though, is not to construct a posh environment for students to relax.
The focus is education and how the college can best prepare its students for careers after school.
“What we really want to do is expand what CNCC currently does and what we can do in the future for the community,” Bilodeau said. “We want our students to go out of here with state of the art training, because we want them to be leaders in their fields.”
He pointed to the dental program at the CNCC Rangely campus as an example.
That curriculum includes some of the latest equipment in dentistry – things that most dentists don’t have in private practice.
“But, when they do start to use that equipment, our students will be positioned to use that technology,” Bilodeau said.
Preparing students for their careers – meaning they are able to work from Day 1 – is what two-year community colleges do, he added.
“I’ve always said, ‘If a person can go to a four-year school, they should. You learn a lot about yourself, and you learn a lot about life,'” Bilodeau said. “But, if you look around – whether it’s the Denver Post or the Craig Daily Press – in the job postings, they’re not looking for people with a four-year degree. They’re looking for people with a skill set, and that’s a trend that’s going to continue.”
But, the campus expansion is not only about vocational programs.
College officials also plan to build a new, 68,000-square-foot academic building at the same time, which Bilodeau said could be completed as early as January 2011.
The building is projected to cost about $23.5 million.
Colorado Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, secured most of the funding – $21.2 million – out of federal mineral lease revenue, which is primarily distributed by the state. CNCC plans to pay the rest.
Bilodeau said the new academic building will let the school offer more traditional curriculum, such as four English classes a day instead of two.
The final project on the college’s radar for the near future is the first of as many as six residence pods, smaller living quarters than the traditional residence halls, made for 32 students at a time.
Bilodeau said the first pod will cost about $1.7 million and will be paid for by the college and private donors.
It won’t be built right away, he added, but should come along soon.
“What we decided is we don’t want to have students living in a construction zone,” Bilodeau said. “Instead, we’ll wait until that dies down.” He said the pod should be available for students by fall 2010 or early 2011.
Everything else projected for the overall campus – other technical centers, academic buildings, administration buildings and a dining hall – will be built as demand and funds dictate, he said.
It’s anyone guess how long that will take, but it’s that demand that college officials say necessitated the expansion project in the first place.
“We’ve known for quite some time that we’ve outgrown the Bell Tower,” Bilodeau said about CNCC’s main building in the Pine Ridge subdivision. “That’s demonstrated by all the places we utilize around town.”
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