View our entire construction photo gallery to follow the ECE ILLINOIS Building progress.
In 1950, ECE faculty established the Gaseous Electronics Laboratory, now known as the Laboratory for Optical Physics and Engineering (LOPE). The laboratory is committed to the pursuit of new and efficient sources of visible, ultraviolet, and vacuum ultraviolet radiation. Since 1962, LOPE has been located in its own building near the corner of Wright and Healey streets in Champaign. The building was not intended to last this long. On the laboratory’s current location, ECE Professor Gary Eden said, “It’s a building that, because of its age, is not well-suited for doing experiments with the very sophisticated optical equipment that we have.” The current building has several drawbacks. “The heating ventilation and air condition system was not designed to control humidity, for example, or even temperature.” In order to ensure a tightly controlled environment, then, Eden had to be creative. “If you go to the laboratory today, you’ll find that there are cleanrooms that I have had to have constructed in California, shipped here and assembled inside the building. So I have a building within a building.” In order to provide LOPE with the resources and environment it needs, the laboratory will join ECE in the new building when it opens next fall.
LOPE’s space in the new ECE building will be much higher quality. “It will be nice to be located in a facility where the humidity and the temperature are better controlled, and the filtration is such that you’re not getting fine particles ejected into the room,” said Eden. While he and his colleagues are sentimental about their current building due to the laboratory’s long history there, the benefits to moving are numerous. The placement of the laboratory in the building was well planned by the building designers and Professor Phil Krein, the chair of the new building committee. “We’re slated to occupy the lowest level in the new building. It’s closer to the foundation, and of course we do optical experiments and they benefit from or require stability, that you get as little vibration from passing traffic as possible.” This is one of the ways that the new building will be a significant improvement over LOPE’s current location. Eden explained, “What really is important is when you have a facility that permits you to do something you couldn’t do before, or it allows you to do something much more efficiently or quickly. And both of those are true.”
Another significant benefit will be LOPE’s new proximity to many buildings and departments that LOPE professors and researchers interact with. Especially advantageous is being in the same building as ECE. When speaking of LOPE’s current distance from ECE, Eden said, “There’s a very distinct drawback to having one’s colleagues scattered all over campus.” With the consolidation of ECE and LOPE in the new ECE building, the opportunity for cooperation between faculty will be substantial. “It’s going to be wonderful to go up a floor or two, or just down the hallway, and be able to annoy a colleague with a silly question or discuss something that may be of mutual interest,” said Eden. Often, good ideas come out of these conversations that either professor would not have thought of on his or her own. “Collaborations are extremely important,” he continued, noting that between all of the faculty who will be housed in the new ECE building, “the synergies are potentially enormous.”
Eden is deeply grateful to alumni and everyone who has committed to the new building project so far. “I hope they’ll come back to campus, that they’ll visit us. So we can express our thanks, and that they can see first-hand the difference that it’s made.”
In 2008, the University of Illinois launched The Building Campaign for ECE ILLINOIS and asked alumni, faculty, staff, and friends to “do their bit” to help fund a state-of-the-art building for the ECE Department. The total project cost of $95 million is being funded in equal parts by the State of Illinois and private donors.
Including state money and private donations, nearly $87 million has been secured to date. Donations have come in a wide range of sizes, with 13 donors giving $100 thousand or more. The ECE Alumni Board raised $250 thousand for the project. Sanjay Srivastava (MS ‘87) pledged $1 million, and for his donation the new senior design lab has been named the Srivastava Senior Design Lab. Frank (BSEE ’34) and Irene Low designated a $7 million estate gift to ECE, and the Frank and Irene Low Classroom Wing has been named in their memory. Fred Nearing (BSEE ’43) gave $500,000 for the building campaign, for which the Nearing Family Classroom is named. While these are examples of substantial leadership gifts, gifts of all sizes have played an important role in allowing this project to move forward. All gifts of $10,000 or more will be recognized in the building.
Approximately $8 million is still needed to complete the project. Corporate and individual gifts of any size are helpful. There are many ways to donate:
To make a gift or learn more about how you or your company can impact this unique project, visit the donate page, or contact Molly Tracy or Martin O’Donnell at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In previous blog posts, we explored the energy-saving features that will be instrumental to achieving the ECE building’s net-zero energy goal. Now, we move beyond the energy savings and explore the building’s strategy of energy creation in the form of solar power, this time speaking with Professor Philip Krein, the chair of the ECE new building committee.
Atop the new building’s roof will be a photovoltaic array facing south to capture sunlight that will be converted to electricity, feeding the building grid. In order to create enough energy to reach the department’s goal, another photovoltaic array will be placed on the roof of the nearby north campus parking garage. Together, these two arrays will deliver about 1500 kW at noon on a sunny day, and approximately as much energy over the course of the year as the building and its occupants consume.
Beyond the purpose of energy creation toward the goal of reaching net-zero, the building’s photovoltaic array will also be an invaluable resource in the ECE classroom. Certain classes, like ECE 333: Green Electric Energy, will provide hands-on experience with photovoltaic technology to ECE students. These students will have the opportunity to explore green energy systems not just theoretically, but with an actual system that the department utilizes. Senior design projects and other classes in electric power and energy will also take advantage of the solar panels, with more opportunities in the future. “This is probably the largest solar array in the nation aimed at educational use,” says Krein.
In order to reach the department’s net-zero goals and integrate the photovoltaic arrays with the classroom experience as soon as possible, the committee targets the arrays’ completion to be within a year of the building’s opening, which is planned for Fall 2014. Alongside the passive and active energy savings features discussed in previous blog posts, the solar energy creation of the photovoltaic arrays will be essential for the department to reach its ambitious net-zero goal.