Hagerstown Community College opened its new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, building to students and faculty Monday, less than two years after construction began.
The five-story, 65,000-square-foot structure will house the science programs that were in the science building, as well as the alternative energy technology, information systems technology, engineering and math programs.
The original science building will be renovated and will be home to all developmental programs and tutoring services, according to the school’s website.
Construction costs for the Arts & Sciences Complex — which consists of the STEM building; the Learning Center, which the science building will become; and the classroom building — were $24.8 million.
“It’s definitely a change to the college,” HCC student Paige Goebelbecker said. “I can come here and chill after class, and just hang out in the lounge here.”
Goebelbecker, 23, of Waynesboro, Pa., is studying special education and history. She has a science class in the new building, which she said offers a better learning environment than the science building.
“There’s a lot more room,” she said. “I’m so used to being on one story, not two, three or four floors.”
Lori Collins, 34, of Inwood, W.Va., is studying pharmacy at HCC. She spoke of the advantages of the new building.
“The labs are more technologically advanced,” she said. “All the technology seems to help. The computers seem to run faster and are more updated.
“It seems to be very environmentally friendly,” she added. “The setup of it is very nice.”
The STEM building is a green building, which means it is sustainable and energy-efficient, according to HCC Construction Manager Gerard Rath.
“This building is really going to take the campus forward, regarding advances in science and technology,” he said. “It’s going to bring programs that we weren’t able to offer before.”
The building has many environmental features, Rath said. They include sun shades on the outside to diffuse light entering the building; a system on the third, fourth and fifth floors to catch rainwater and use it as water in toilets; and better indoor air quality.
“We are eventually going to have solar panels and green roofs,” he said. “We’ll have five solar panels on top of this building. That should be scheduled to start in the next couple of months.”
Despite the new environmental features, Rath said his favorite thing about the building is how it was built to fit in with the campus.
“I like how the architect built this building into the landscape,” he said. “It’s built right into the side of the hill, and it kind of matched the natural surroundings.”
Elaine Ashby, a biology professor at HCC, teaches classes in the new building. She said the extra space and technology are good for students and professors.
“We have new resources and space for the bio-tech and high-tech areas,” she said. “Our students deserve nice laboratories, and they’re getting them this semester.”
Ashby, who has been a professor at HCC for 27 years, said the aesthetics of the building are nice.
“Everything is so nice, and fresh and new,” she said. “I love that I have an office with windows.”
The newly renovated Kepler Theater on campus is scheduled to open later this week.