LAFAYETTE — In the coming months, an updated and larger version of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Student Union will emerge from behind the familiar, white columns that have framed the building for decades.

Most of the existing building was demolished to make way for the upgrades and an additional 30,000 square feet of space. Parts of the former 128,000-square-foot building that will remain for renovations include the bookstore area, ballroom and the Bayou Bijou Theatre.

This week, construction crews began work on the underground structure that will support the new building, said Bill Crist, ULL facilities director.

Meanwhile, electrical and ventilation duct work within the existing spaces of the ballroom and bookstore has begun. The $36 million project is expected to be complete by December 2014.

The new building will be set back from Cypress Lake to create a larger outdoor space. The new building design also will incorporate balcony space on the second floor with views of both the lake and oaks along McKinley Street.

More than 77 percent of debris from the Student Union demolition has been recycled as part of the university’s goal to achieve LEED Certification on the project.

eadership in Energy and Environmental Design is an internationally recognized designation for sustainable building practices.

“It’s mostly concrete and steel that were the two big items that were recycled. Most of the wood structure and substructure — that material wasn’t able to be recycled,” Crist said.

More than 440 tons of metal and 11,504 tons of concrete were sent to recycling centers.

Crist said the certification may be achieved based on design and even construction materials and methods. Based on points within 40 to 50 categories, a building can achieve certification, he said. He added the certification considers a range of issues in design — from glass exposure to outdoor areas and the use of toilets and sinks that conserve water.

“LEED looks at everything that goes into the design and operation of the building,” Crist said.

TME, of Little Rock, Ark., is the LEED consultant on the project, which was planned and designed by Architects Southwest. The project’s general contractor is The Lemoine Co. while D.H. Griffin coordinated the demolition.

Student fees designated for the Student Union expansion will fund the project. About 10 years ago, students approved a $55 fee per semester for the renovation project and in 2005, another $20 per semester project fee was instituted. The university has collected $21 million in student fees for the project and also sold $23 million in bonds to finance the project.

Student services formerly housed in the Student Union have been temporarily relocated to other areas of the campus.