Classes expected to begin in new ECE building fall 2014

At this time next year, University students will be taking classes in an Electrical and Computer Engineering building that uses zero energy.

Construction began on the building, located on the North Quad, in January 2012. Philip Krein, chair of the ECE building committee, said since the first day of planning with the architects, his committee expressed that net-zero energy consumption would be a challenge worth facing. This means, through sustainable technologies installed in the building, no carbon will be emitted.

“From the get-go, we told the architects we wanted to design the most energy efficient engineering building in the world,” Krein said. “Now, it’s probably going to be the best equipped department of our type in the world. It’s going to be tremendous.”

Architecture company SmithGroupJJR took on the project in 2008 while it was still in the planning stages. The same firm also designed the Beckman Institute more than twenty years ago.

In an interview on the ECE website, David King, lead architect for the project, said the ECE department really “stuck to their guns” about being energy efficient.

“The project has reached a place that we’re doing things that will ultimately prove to be very smart for the institution long term,” King said. “These ideas didn’t emerge from traditional processes and value equations.”

The building costs $90 million dollars to create, but Krein said the zero-energy features of the building barely contributed to that cost.

“The cost of being net-zero was only an extra 3 to 4 percent and will pay itself back quickly,” Krein said.

Factors that will contribute to net-zero energy in the building include more insulation in the walls, LED lighting, solar panels and energy conversion as well as systems to power electronics.

Krein said it was important to know that the students would be most affected by the new building when it opens in fall 2014.

“There are going to be lots of changes,” Krein said. “Bigger classrooms, labs and a lot of places for students to hang out — it’s a much more (homey) atmosphere than before.”

In the building design, nearly 8 percent of the building’s space has been dedicated to offices and lounges for students. The rest of the space is made up of an auditorium, classrooms and labs.

More information and a virtual webcam of the new building’s construction progress is available online.

Claire can be reached at [email protected]