U of M daycare facility to be CNH’s Fourth YMCA ECLC

CNH Architects is working on their fourth YMCA Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC), this one located on the University of Minnesota’s East Bank. CNH Principal and project architect, Brooke Jacobson, recently answered some questions about the project.

Rendering of the YMCA ECLC on the University of Minnesota Campus

What is the size of the facility and what does it consist of?

BJ: 12,100 gross square feet consisting of four preschool rooms, one transition room, three toddler rooms, two infant rooms, kitchen, enrichment room, meeting room, office, and outdoor playground


How many children can the early learning center accommodate?

146 children

What materials are being used in construction and design?

The interior follows standard prototype palette for YMCA ECLC projects that we developed full of color.  Outside is brick to fit in with the neighborhood. Nichiha composite wall panels are used to provide color and interest along the busy street. The color and patterns bring vibrancy to the exterior. (Nichiha panels are a patented composite of cement, fly ash, silica, recycled materials and wood fibers.)

Interesting fact: CNH designed the YMCA ECLC prototype, which is used throughout all locations.

What makes this ECLC different from the others CNH has done?

The outside is different as this is the first time an ECLC has gone into a new building. Typically, they move into a tenant space. This time, per the YMCA’s agreement with the U of M, the university built a new building for the facility.

The project kicked off in March 2020, meaning the majority of the work has been done during COVID-19. What has that been like?

The entire schematic design and design development processes were done remotely and virtually, even on our end between team members. 


During the construction document phase, the team was mixed between in the office and working from home. This led to developing a different system for reviewing and completing drawings.  It was a challenge to figure out a system, but between this project and others we finally settled on a system that works. It wasn’t without some growing pains though! The first in-person meeting we had was also the first on-site construction meeting which was definitely unique. 

What have you learned from this virtual work experience that might not have been taken into consideration previously?

I learned near the beginning of construction with all of our virtual meetings that when presenting on screen, it does not always view the same on everyone else’s screen.

For instance, we ordered the Nichiha samples in the multi-colored scheme, (for the exterior of the building) and when I showed them in person to the Owner, they thought our color scheme had been more of a purple and not the blue scheme we intended to select. The blue scheme was based off of the color on their monitors.  Luckily this was not an issue as they liked the blue scheme! However, it is something we need to consider when people are not viewing the same screen or printouts as we are, as things can look different.

Is this the first project CNH has done at the University of Minnesota?

Yes. This is our first project on the University of Minnesota campus, which is an exciting opportunity for us. 

Construction is well underway. When will it be completed?

Substantial completion is June 1st, 2021

Who is CNH working with on this project?

H+U Construction hired us. Our engineering consultants are Solution Blue (civil) and Tekton Engineers (structural).  As the project is design/build, H+U also hired NAC Mechanical & Electrical that we coordinated with.

Learn more about CNH and H+U’s partnership on this project here.

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