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 Tuesday, February 12, 2008 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


New campus architect oversees growth of historic magnitude
By Linda Besen, Publications and Creative Services

With the groundbreaking of the $63.5 million Visual Arts Complex fast approaching and another $300 million in projects being designed this year, Paul Leef, new director of planning, design and construction and campus architect, takes to heart his 10-year-old son's skiing advice: Go faster and jump higher. "It's good training for this new position," Leef said.

Projects being designed this year include the Systems Biotechnology Initiative Research Facility ($120 million), the Center for Community ($65 million), a new heating and cooling plant ($75 million), an addition to JILA ($27 million) and several more.

Looking further ahead, Leef said, "The five-year capital improvement plan, if it were to be fully funded, would exceed $800 million in project costs. However, there are also exciting new initiatives proposed in the Flagship 2030 Plan, and we will begin to explore during this year how campus facilities can support this new vision for our future." He explains that this is a timely exercise because CU is nearing the end of its last 10-year campus master planning cycle.

The challenge lies not only with the planning but also the implementation of work. For example, construction of multiple new buildings planned along Regent Drive will present significant coordination issues. Furthermore, the pipes for the new heating and cooling plant will run throughout a major portion of campus. "Although some of the construction is a year or more away, our office has already begun to evaluate the level of coordination needed to minimize disruption to the campus," Leef said.

Leef holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and a master's degree in architecture from the University of Virginia and previously worked for CU as a consultant and design and construction coordinator. Most recently he was campus architect and director of planning and construction at the Colorado School of Mines. He is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-accredited professional.

In fact, CU's long and successful history of sustainability initiatives and leadership is an important reason why Leef chose to come here. "I am very excited to be back on this campus, which is known for its leadership in sustainability," he said. "Here, leadership in energy and the environment is found in the lab, the classroom and the design of the buildings that house them."

Leef's interest in environmental issues began in grade school with the first few Earth Days. Much later, when he was consulting on ITLL in the mid-1990s, he appreciated that its innovative design included sustainability through its extensive use of daylighting. He took this interest to the Colorado School of Mines, where the school used design goals based on LEED version 1.0 for its Center for Technology and Learning Media. "My positive experience with that project further inspired my commitment to sustainable design," he said.

Leef notes that the Boulder campus is similar to the University of Virginia where he studied and worked for many years. "At both universities there is a strong tradition of design excellence and a coherence in design vocabulary that is both unique and instantly recognizable," he said. "There is also a sense that the total is greater than the sum of its parts; that is, the buildings are respectful and complimentary to each other as part of a larger family, and while they enjoy some measure of individuality, they are not screaming for attention like petulant children."

One of the most important roles of the campus architect is to act as a steward of the buildings and grounds. "The beauty of the campus architecture and the memorable spaces that the buildings create are integral to the campus identity as a nationally recognized flagship university. We have rich traditions here that we should honor, respect and celebrate," Leef said.

As for Leef's favorite places on campus, he said, "I love the building forms, courtyard and entry sequence of Sewall Hall. I appreciate the delightful, rich details on buildings ranging from Hale Sciences and Hazel Gates Woodruff cottage, to the classic works of Klauder, to even some of the more modern interpretations. I really enjoy the outdoor rooms created by Hellems, Fountain Court and Wolf Law. I also appreciate the positive impact that interior spaces can have on academic programs, such as the open, daylit learning environments of ITLL."

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