TitleEast Cobleigh Outdoor Materials Lab Improvements Request Date2012-11-30
DepartmentCivil Engineering
RequestorJerry Stephens Phone994-6113
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts  
Proposed Dates Start: February 2013 End: September 2013
The objective of this project is to enhance the functionality and aesthetics of the outdoor laboratory space behind Cobleigh Hall that is used to support a multitude of instructional and research activities. This 4500 ft2 space is a critical work area as materials, models, fixturing, etc. are continuously moved between the indoor laboratories and this outdoor staging area. Currently the borders of this area are only delineated by a sparse row of shrubs, and only the driveways are paved. This project will pave the entire area to provide an all-weather work surface and install fencing/landscaping to improve its definition and appearance.
The infrastructure improvements in this proposal will provide students and faculty necessary facilities to engage in critical, “hands-on” learning and discovery activities. They will also enhance the function and aesthetics of the facility. Specific strategic goals that are supported include:

Objective D.2.1 – Enhance infrastructure in support of research, discovery and creative activities.

Objective S.2 – Enhance aesthetic appeal and functional quality of MSU physical resources to support high quality learning, research and work environments.
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Materials & Supplies              
Contracted Services 3000  72725Figure 2. Current Situation East Side of Cobleigh Hall           
Other Operations              
TOTAL 3000  72725     
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

Faculty/staff time required in working with Facility Services from project planning through completion will be covered by the CE Department

Describe the Proposal

The objective of this project is to greatly improve the existing outdoor laboratory space located on the east side of Cobleigh Hall to create a functional and attractive work environment to support a host of student and faculty activities.  This laboratory space, operated by the Civil Engineering Department, is located between Cobleigh Hall and 6th Street and is approximately 140 feet long and 30 feet wide.    What makes this space so important is that it butts up against the two overhead doors that directly access the materials and structural engineering laboratories in the Civil Engineering Department, and that also serve as a gateway to the Subzero Science and Engineering Laboratory and other facilities in Cobleigh Hall.  Instructional and research use of these laboratories has steadily increased over the past decade, and this space behind Cobleigh Hall between the building and the street serves as a critical staging area for many of these activities. 


Relative to class activities, students in both undergraduate and graduate courses in the civil and construction engineering technology curriculums construct and test a variety of structural elements and assemblies to gain valuable engineering insights on system behavior and experimental methods.  Over 100 students each year, for example, construct and test concrete specimens and reinforced concrete beams and columns in the materials and structures laboratories.   Their beam and column specimens are purposefully “big” (they are six feet long and carry 1,000’s of pounds of load), so that in addition to observing real-life structural behaviors, the students are exposed to realistic construction methods.  The materials used for these specimens come in super sacks (literally grocery bags the size of a small elephant), that take up too much space to keep inside.  Coincident with these and other class activities, research is being done in these and adjacent laboratories on everything from sustainable materials, to cost efficient bridge support structures, to the reflectance of light from snow covered surfaces, for sponsors from the US Department of Energy,  to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, to the Montana Department of Transportation, to the Oregon and California Departments of Transportation, to the National Science Foundation, and more.  Additionally, this space is incidentally used all the time by student groups working on everything from concrete canoes to complex robots for intercollegiate competitions.  With all this activity (and more) at the same time, there are materials, models, rigging, test fixturing, etc. continuously being moved between the indoor laboratories and the outdoor staging area. 


This project will significantly improve the efficiency and safety of operations in this outdoor laboratory space.   The project consists of two tasks:

a)      Constructing a fence and placing barrier landscaping around the perimeter of the work space.   These items will visually screen the work space from the street and will provide some security for the items in it. 

b)      Paving the enclosed area with concrete.  The paved surface will provide a clean all-weather surface for students to work on and for forklift access.   The surface will be paved with one of the innovative “green” concretes MSU has been developing for the past decade.

These proposed improvements are detailed in Figure 1 below.


Figure 1.  Plan View of Proposed Enhancements to Outdoor Laboratory Area Behind Cobleigh Hall


The proposed fencing and landscaping will enhance the definition and separation of the laboratory space from the general building grounds.   Further, the fencing and landscaping will improve the outward appearance of the space so that it blends in better with the residential character of the immediately adjacent neighborhood.     The fencing and landscaping will replace an existing line of discrete shrubs that only partially encircle the laboratory staging area (see Figure 2).  While these shrubs were intended to visually screen this area from pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and from the neighborhood in general, they have only been partially successful in this regard.  The existing shrubs are relatively far apart, are absent entirely across the south end of the area, and several are in relatively poor condition. 





Figure 2.  Current Situation, East Side of Cobleigh Hall


The proposed fencing will be strong, durable and aesthetically appealing.  The fencing will run east from each corner of the building out toward the sidewalk, where it will wrap around a corner and run parallel to the street, terminating at the edge of the building’s access driveways, as shown in Figure 1.  The specific fencing option used in preparing this proposal consists of tubular steel fence posts supporting removable infill panels. The panels, 6 feet tall, consist of a steel frames infilled with corrugated steel sheeting.   The removable panels will allow access to the laboratory/staging area if required from the north and south directions.   At present, gates will not be installed across the access driveways, although the end posts of the fence will be constructed to allow gates to be added at a future date, if deemed necessary.  All fencing elements will be finished to minimize future/long term maintenance requirements. 


Barrier landscaping will be installed between the access drives parallel to 6th street.  This landscaping will be configured to match the nature and theme of the landscaping already in place as a screen between the adjacent Engineering and Physical Sciences Building and 6th Street.  Elements of this landscaping scheme will also be extended along the verge between the new fencing and the sidewalk along 6th Street.  The project cost includes installation of underground irrigation necessary to maintain this landscaping. 


Currently, only the driveways between 6th Street and the overhead doors entering the back of the building are paved.  These areas need to be kept clear for access to the building; thus, most activities are being conducted on unpaved surfaces that are ill-suited for many tasks under the best of conditions, and almost impossible to use in poor weather.   One task of this project is to pave the entire laboratory/staging area.  This paving will be accomplished using one of the sustainable concretes researched and developed here at MSU from recycled/byproduct materials.  Thus, the surface of the staging area, itself, will be a demonstration project with students and faculty involved in designing and then monitoring its performance.  


The surface of the outdoor laboratory area will be paved with an environmentally friendly “green” concrete developed at MSU.   As mentioned above, the surface of this space currently is loose gravel, which is difficult to work on, hard to keep clean, and looks unkempt.   An eight inch thick concrete slab will provide a clean, attractive all-weather work surface.  The slab will be constructed using a concrete made with recycled materials and industrial by-products.  Traditional Portland cement concrete is an outstanding building material, but its production and use has significant environmental impacts.  Notably, cement production is an energy intensive process, with up to 7 percent of the greenhouse gasses produced worldwide being attributed to the manufacture of Portland cement.  For the past decade MSU has been developing and testing concretes made with fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal in the generation of electricity.   While demonstration projects have been constructed with this new concrete in Billings, Lewistown and Missoula, such a project opportunity has not materialized in Bozeman.  This project offers an opportunity for such a project.   Students and faculty will be tasked with developing a concrete mixture specifically for this application, and then monitoring its performance during and after construction.   


This plan for enhancing the functionality and aesthetics of the outdoor laboratory space on the east side of Cobleigh Hall has been developed in close collaboration with MSU Facility Services based on other projects they have completed around campus, with due consideration of the specific instructional and research needs of the students and faculty that utilize this space.   The estimated cost of this project is $75,725.  This cost estimate was developed by Facility Services.   The estimated costs of the principal elements of the project are:


                Fencing (140 ft):                                               $28,000

                Landscaping and Irrigation:                                   5,000

                Concrete Surface (4500 sq ft):                             32,625

                Incidentals                                                          4,500

                Project Management (3 %):                                   2,100

                Contingency (5 %):                                              3,500

                Total:                                                              $75,725


This investment in the proposed improvements in the functionality, safety, and aesthetics of this space well supports the university’s strategic goals to continuously improve discovery opportunities for students and to enhance its stewardship of its resources.  Upon project award, the CE Department and Facility Services will finalize various features of the project design following all university requirements and procedures.  It is anticipated that the project should be complete within nine months of notice to proceed.   The final planning and approval process is expected to take four to six months, with construction then being completed over approximately three months. 







Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

Broader Impacts

  • Higher quality learning and working environment
  • Enhanced “gown-to-town” aesthetic appeal
  • Improved image of campus for visitors traveling from 6th street
Implementation Plan

Upon receipt of award the CE Department will work with Facility Services to finalize all plans for the proposed improvements.  It is anticipated that this work will be completed by mid-summer of 2013, with project construction completed by early to late fall of 2013.

Assessment Plan

The only element of the proposed improvements anticipated to require possible further action is the installation of gates across the driveways and extension of the fencing in the area with the proposed barrier landscaping.  Six months to one year after completion of the project, laboratory users will be convened to discuss these and any other issues that have arisen with the improvements. 

If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

If gates or other changes to the laboratory improvements are deemed necessary, the CE Department will work with Facility Services in this regard, with the intent of using Department resources to make any necessary changes.

Department Head: Jerry Stephens (
Dean/Director: Brett Gunnink (
Executive/VP: Martha Potvin (