UCF Downtown Academic Building


University of Central Florida


Completion Date:
July 2019

Construction cost:
$46.3 million

Project size:
150,000 SF

Pursuing LEED Silver

UCF Downtown Academic Building


The University of Central Florida and Valencia College collaborated with Orange County Public Schools and civic and community leaders to establish an integrated campus on the west side of downtown Orlando. Their joint goal was to revitalize the area by offering programs that would benefit the historic Parramore community, serve growing downtown industries, and simultaneously create a unique urban learning environment for their students. Dr. Phillips Academic Commons is the heart of campus, providing collaborative learning space, classrooms and space for educational and community events. It consists of two 4-level buildings joined by a 3-level bridge. 

The first challenge faced by the team came from the site itself. An active 8’-diameter stormwater pipe passes beneath the 3-level connector and turns slightly west under a corner of one of the four-story buildings. Rather than conduct expensive and time-consuming explorations to determine the exact location of the pipe, the team identified a utility easement within which we knew the pipe would lie; Walter P Moore then carefully located piles to avoid these areas. Where the pipe passes under the building, we created a cantilever footing to avoid bearing directly on the pipe below. A second concern was that the pipe might break in the future which would wash out the soil forming a sink hole below the building. To mitigate this risk, our team designed the piles in this area as they would above ground columns. 

A final challenge occurred when designing the library in the east building. Located on the second level with a view of downtown, designers envisioned the library as a light and airy space with 2-story high ceilings. This, however, meant that the primary girders supporting the third level in the rest of the building would be significantly shorter than their 2nd and 4th floor counterparts. In response, our team provided post-tensioned concrete beams which are able to support heavier loads at a shallower depth than the mildly reinforced concrete used in the majority of the building.

The Dr. Phillips Academic Commons opened as the first academic building on the downtown campus for the Fall of 2019. Neighboring Union West, the first dorm on campus, also opened for the semester and the new tenant list is growing as planners expect the campus to spur more than $1.5 billion in development in the neighborhood. These buildings are just the first components in realizing the long-term vision to develop a pre-k to post-graduate education pipeline within walking distance of thousands of homes and a bustling employment center.