The $79-million-dollar renovation of the Robert E. Kennedy Library compelled California Polytechnic State University to find temporary study spaces for students.

On June 16, 2023, the library on the San Luis Obispo campus closed its doors for an expected two-year overhaul. Built in 1980, the five-floor library is a highly trafficked location on campus, receiving 1.5 million visits from students every year, offering 40 private study spaces, a 24-hour study section, printing services and labs, and more. When students and staff return to the building in September 2025, they will be welcomed to new seismic upgrades, fire and life safety upgrades, all-gender and ADA restrooms on every floor, roof repair, energy efficient glazing installed throughout, a coffee shop on the first floor, electrical and data replacements, paint and flooring refreshes, and, for the first time ever, air conditioning.

A priority throughout construction is to minimize disruption of services and continue to provide to the campus community. Cal Poly responded with cross-campus space efforts; identifying temporary indoor study locations around the public university, like classrooms, halls, a student union, and gymnasium, that could handle an influx of additional students. And Cal Poly looked at an out-of-the-box, outdoor idea for another study space on its 9,000-plus acre campus. 

“The library was the mainframe for the students’ study spaces,” Cal Poly Project Manager John Sandman explained. “We tried to capture available space throughout the campus for student study space, which is very limited. A viable option was to erect three tents in two parking lots that could provide space for roughly 200 students per tent.” Thus, Cal Poly transformed parking lots into study spots.

The enclosed tents, located on two staff parking lots, have doors, cooling and heating capabilities, power strips, lighting, and furniture. Seeing how the three 50’x100′ structures would be directly placed on asphalt, Cal Poly knew they needed a protective, modular flooring system to withstand the rainwater, and accordingly, drainage from the nearby landscaping and buildings. Further, they needed something to provide a solid, stable surface for pedestrian traffic, as well as approval from California’s State Fire Marshall standards.


“We needed to find some type of flooring system that would allow the water to drain underneath the tile and not have the students exposed to the wetness,” said Sandman.“And that’s where we discovered Versare.”

The simple solution was EverBase 3 — a “perfect fit,” according to Sandman. “Its click-in-place is very simple. The flooring was installed with a crew of four — and took them less than a day per tent.”

The flooring created a support base for students, desks, tables, and chairs (EverBase 3 can withstand up to 20,000 pounds per square foot, or psf) while also allowing water to effortlessly pass underneath after a rainstorm. “Any storm that came through, it worked as we hoped for and what it was installed for,” Sandman said. “Water was able to travel underneath these flooring tiles and flow out.”

One tent in the center core of the campus remains due to constant student traffic — roughly 150 to 160 students visit at its daily highest peak, according to Sandman. The other two tents at the perimeter of campus just didn’t get the student usage, so these were decommissioned, but it was noted the crew members easily dismantled the floor into sections and stored onto pallets. When the flooring was removed, the school’s parking lot was in great shape with no damage or wear — ready for vehicles once again.

“It’s unfortunate the library had to go down — a lot of students use that daily,” Sandman said. “But the remodel/retrofit is going to be awesome and worth the wait. And so, it was a success. The one tent, it’ll still be open until the library is back open.”