“We ECE alumni all know that our department is one of the top programs in the United States, but we’ve outgrown the historic building on the corner of Wright and Green. The new ECE building is necessary to support the work of the coming century and will be a physical symbol of the excellence of the faculty and students found inside.”
Adjacent to the Beckman Institute and across from the Coordinated Science Laboratory on the northern edge of campus, the new ECE building will locate the department and all of its activities in the heart of the University’s center for groundbreaking high-tech research.
The approximate 230,000 square feet of classrooms, labs, and administrative facilities will create an environment conducive to interdisciplinary learning, where the development of knowledge and new ideas will flourish.
“When space is compartmentalized, ideas are compartmentalized. We’re changing that in a major way,” explains ECE Department Head Andreas Cangellaris. “The new building will provide a dynamic mix of vast open spaces and small, intimate gathering points that really bring people together. And that’s where you’re going to see the energy and excitement develop that takes an amazing program to a whole new level.”
The building was designed by SmithGroup, one the oldest architectural firms in the country, and a leader in sustainability in design. Read an interview with lead architect David King.
With the new ECE building the University is determined to achieve LEED platinum certification, and is striving for a net-zero energy design that will enable the building to supply all of its own energy. From a vast array of photovoltaic cells, to a chilled beam system to cool and heat the classroom tower, ECE wil accomplish a major campus addition with maximum space and minimal carbon footprint.
“This is no small achievement,” explains ECE Professor Phil Krein. “Currently the Department of Energy reports only eight net-zero energy buildings in the U.S., and the largest is only 14,000 square feet. To achieve this in a building nearly 20 times that size reflects the University’s sincere commitment to sustainable design while capturing the spirit of a department that’s always pushing the limits of technological innovation.”
In addition to its sustainable design, the building will incorporate many notable contributions of ECE faculty and staff, including the most recent LED and fluorescent lighting advances, energy conversion and systems that exploit new achievements in power electronics, and intelligent systems and interfaces that apply recent breakthroughs in computer technology. “In other words,” explains Krein, “visitors won’t just be entering the ECE building, they’ll be entering the ECE experience, enjoying the benefits of technology that had its genesis here.”
A major focus for this building will be on student study and collaboration spaces. Nearly 8% of the completed building will be dedicated to such spaces, which will include offices for student groups, as well as lounges and other areas where students can interact with one another and with faculty. The student groups’ offices will be located in the heart of the building, ensuring vibrant interaction with fellow students.
With these student spaces, the department will take advantage of the education that occurs outside of the classroom, facilitating the ability of faculty to meet with students in a more informal setting and enabling students to learn from each other as they work and meet every day.
In addition, instructional labs will make up 28% of the new space, and classrooms and the auditorium making up an additional 18% of the space.
Lab courses have been an important educational component to the ECE program, and these will be improved and enhanced. In particular, the building will feature two labs that have been historically important to the department:
Both of these student labs will be showcased in the new building, providing visitors opportunities to watch as the future leaders of the field learn the fundamental skills that will ensure their success.