CSU’s Michael Smith Natural Resources Building at Warner College
Fort Collins, Colo.

Owner: Colorado State University
Lead Design Firm: 4240 Architecture Inc.
General Contractor: Pinkard Construction
Structural Engineer: Martin/Martin Inc.
Civil Engineer: Interwest Consulting Group Inc.
MEP Engineer: Professional Engineering Consultants
Landscape Architect: Russell + Mills Studios
Subcontractors: Front Range Steel; Hillen Corp.; Horizon Glass & Glazing; IMA Inc.; J&S Drywall Specialties; Merit Electric; Phase 2 Co.; Soderberg Masonry; Total Concrete Services

Located on Colorado State University’s main campus in Fort Collins, the Michael Smith Natural Resources Building addition and renovation added four stories and 49,010 sq ft of new space to the south side of the building. The design intent was for the building itself to become a new teaching tool for students and faculty in telling the story of natural resources. Local sandstone, felled wood and even representations of sun and wind patterns are incorporated throughout the building to connect users to the ethos of Warner College. These components are meant to emphasize collaboration, curiosity and community building. 

The project focused on meeting student needs by including large interactive classrooms, flexible teaching labs and a sun-filled stairwell. Designed around a collaborative central spine, the building capitalizes on its location and the college’s inclusive curriculum to create experiential learning opportunities. 

At the east end of the spine, “treehouses” overlook an area called Sherwood Forest that contains every tree native to Colorado. To the west, students are connected to the Collaboratorium and Idea Incubator—a community space where users can exchange ideas.

The building also includes modern classrooms, wet and dry instructional laboratories, collaborative study spaces, office suites, a flex conference room, a Student Success Center, an outdoor terrace, a two-story living wall and an extended atrium with additional study space.

The 60-ft-wide by 200-ft-long addition is located within a 90-ft-wide by 220-ft-long site, so the contractor had to squeeze the basement between active steam tunnels running to the south and west and the existing building to the north. The 20-ft-high basement walls are 3 ft thick, with special A-frame shoring that included horizontal (soil nail) helical screws and special applications of shotcrete to maintain the basement’s structural integrity. 

Crews did foundation and basement construction with a river of groundwater flowing through the site. No perimeter drains were allowed. Two custom-designed dewatering wells allowed for safe construction of a specialty slab-on-void foundation assembly.

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