It is seemingly one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all-time on the campus of the University of Texas. When UT students enter a campus building for class on the first occasion, one of the first questions they ponder is, ‘what floor am I on?’
On a map, it may seem easy to find the location of the building for your physics lab, however finding the exact location of the lab within a given building can prove to be a challenge.
Many building have ground levels numbered anything but one. At Robert Lee Moore Hall, located in the engineering area of campus, the ground floor is level four. There are 19 floors in the 40-year-old building. Even the Communication buildings located around the Walter Cronkite Plaza, start at different ground floors than level one.
The Jesse H. Jones Communication Center Buildings (A and B) and the William Randolph Hearst Building start on level three in the complex constructed in the early 1970s. In contrast, the Belo Center for New Media (completed in 2011) and the Liberal Arts Building (completed in 2012) start their ground floors on level one.
This strange phenomenon occurs on various buildings on campus. Though there seems to be a generation gap among buildings on campus, the explanation for the various ground levels is complex says David Rea, director of the Office of Campus Planning & Facilities Management. “Some [campus] buildings connect to other existing buildings which, based on some past decision, have a ground floor level labeled something other than level 1.”
According to Rea, many factors contribute to deciding the ground floor level. “Some buildings have multiple main entries on multiple levels and in those cases the occupancy use on the different levels inside the building might be used to govern the floor labeling, with the most important level becoming level 1.
“Lastly, some buildings have multiple levels below the main entry level. You can use level B when there’s only one level below the main entry level, but when there’s more than one it may make it less confusing for students to use Level 1 for the level just above level B, even though it’s below the main building entry level.”
Rea says this should be a simple issue [in that] the ground floor should always being level 1. “Due to our location on a hill and our complicated buildings, what should be a simple issue becomes less simple in practice. A free-standing building, with no connection to another building and with all of its main entries on the same ground level, will most often have a ground level which is labeled level 1.”
Pre-professional nursing student Devon Strickland says the ground floor of buildings is not that big of a deal to her. “The fact that some of the buildings on campus that start at different ground levels than floor one seems like that would have been unconventional to build. But it sure does make life an adventure. I’ve gotten confused a few times because the ground floor isn’t level one but there are usually nice people around to point me in the right direction.”
Photojournalism major Karla Castillo says she just thought the floor plans added to the weirdness of Austin, but eventually you grow accustomed to it. “My thoughts towards the odd numbering of the floors are that it is confusing, but you get used to the confusion. Although I know that the main floor of the PCL and the Union start off with [floor number two], to me, the main floor will always be the first floor. I'm used to other buildings that consist of the first floor being numbered 1, and if there is a floor underneath, it is considered the Basement.
“When I hear of confusing buildings and floor layouts, I always think of the Six Pack and my freshman year in the Honors Quad. How is it possible that these buildings are interconnected, yet I can be on the second floor in one building or dorm and automatically switch to the first or third floor in the next building or dorm? It's craziness, but you get used to it.”