New, green building for engineers on the way

The department of electrical and computer engineering, or ECE, will finally have its own building on campus after years of the project being put off.

“It will probably be the first time in the history of the department that the students will have a building that they can call their own,” said Andreas Cangellaris, head of the department. “This … is going to be a building dedicated to the teaching of students.”

The new building, previously planned with the assumed name of John Bardeen Hall but now simply called the ECE building, will be located on Wright Street, southwest of the Beckman Institute. According to the ECE website, it will provide 230,000 square feet of space for teaching and research and will emphasize spaces for student learning.

The College of Engineering recently received $47.5 million for the project in state funds. Combined with $37.5 million already raised from private donors, the college needs $10 million more for the building.

Cangellaris said the money will be raised by the department from alumni and industry friends and they may receive federal money because the proposed building is designed to be very environmentally conscious.

Philip Krein, a professor of engineering who was involved in designing the building, said he hopes the design will receive a platinum rating from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, one of the premier organizations for green building ratings.

Krein said the Business Instructional Facility has already been awarded the platinum rating from LEED, the organization’s highest.

Cangellaris said the goal is for the building to have zero net energy.

“Rather than consume energy from the grid, (the building would) be actually able to return some energy back to the grid,” he said.

Cangellaris said the design already allows for solar panels on the roof, but he wants to get space for even more solar cells.

The ECE building will also act as an experiment in constructing a green building, as it will allow students and faculty to research and to experiment with new ideas to design energy-efficient buildings.

Krein said the building was designed several years ago but the project was shelved. Cangellaris said the ECE department has wanted its own building for several decades, but it has not been a priority until now.

Dave Blanchette, public information officer at the Capital Development Board, which allocated the money for the building, said advertisements for contractors have already been sent out, and the board plans to accept a bid in October.

Cangellaris said he hopes groundbreaking starts in November and the building will be open for classes in Fall 2014.

Cangellaris said one of the main benefits of the new building will be the open spaces it provides to students, including those in social sciences, fine and applied arts and business.

“Some of the new spaces created will be left open for nurturing new ideas (and) new pursuits, not only in terms of learning but in terms of research,” he said. “We have been very committed to engaging our students in the notion that the most effective research and engineering happen through immersion into the community … understanding what people want (and) thinking about … things the community, the society (and) the world needs to move forward.”