The $95 million Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Building at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, designed by SmithGroup, has recently begun construction. The new ECE building will create 230,000-square feet of instructional, research, and office space in the heart of the university’s engineering campus. The move will consolidate functions currently dispersed over multiple locations into a single facility, creating a flexible environment to inspire and support interdisciplinary learning and collaboration. When completed in fall 2014, the project will be a major addition to the university’s Urbana-Champaign campus. The university has received $47.5 million in funding from the state of Illinois and has secured $37.5 million in private support. Fundraising is ongoing for the remaining $10 million.

The new facility will be constructed on the northern edge of campus adjacent to the circa-1989 Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology and across from the Coordinated Science Laboratory, both SmithGroup-designed facilities. The building program includes classrooms; teaching and research laboratories, including an instructional clean room; an auditorium; faculty and administrative offices; and student gathering areas. It will also house laboratories for research in the fields of thin film and charged particles, optical physics, and electromagnetism, along with varied spaces for the university’s power and energy systems, materials research, remote sensing, and space sciences groups.

“SmithGroup has enjoyed a longstanding history on UI’s Urbana-Champaign campus,” said Andy Vazzano, FAIA, LEED AP, leader of SmithGroup’s Corporate Science & Technology Practice. “This new building is where future innovations and sustainable research practices are imagined and refined.”

“This building will be a great benefit to our students, not only in the ECE Department, but in our college and beyond,” says ECE Department Head Andreas C. Cangellaris. “This new building is designed to inspire engineering education driven by societal needs and opportunities. With these new facilities and labs, we will continue to educate the leaders in our profession for generations to come.”

The ECE building will also establish a sustainability prototype for future University of Illinois projects. Minimizing the facility’s carbon footprint and optimizing energy efficiency were key drivers behind its design. Sustainable considerations include a terra cotta rainscreen cladding system in conjunction with an R-30 thermal envelope for enhanced energy performance. Passive solar design features such as building orientation, 30 percent overall glazing, and exterior shading devices lend to greater daylighting and reduced energy loads. In addition to maintaining a consistent material palette that harmonizes with the neighboring brick buildings, terra cotta baguettes act as exterior shading devices on 80 percent of the glazing. The building is targeted to achieve LEED Platinum certification, the highest level of building efficiency, and is anticipated to receive an EPA Energy Star rating of 99 on a 100-point scale.

The ECE Department is also striving to attain a net zero energy design that will enable the building to supply one hundred percent of its energy demands over each year by incorporating renewable energy systems after construction. SmithGroup’s architects and engineers from KJWW have integrated a range of systems that will aid in achieving this goal, including infrastructure for a future array ofphotovoltaic cells, displacement and demand control ventilation, heat recovery chillers with net metering, and a chilled beam system for cooling and heating the classroom tower.

The building will incorporate many notable contributions of ECE faculty and staff. It will feature the most sophisticated LED and fluorescent lighting, complex energy conversion systems utilizing advanced power electronics, and intelligent systems and interfaces supported by ever-evolving control and computer technologies.

Based in Chicago, SmithGroup is a large architecture and engineering firm composed of client industry-focused practices serving the education, science & technology, workplace, and healthcare markets. A national leader in sustainable design, SmithGroup has 354 LEED professionals and 67 LEED certified projects.