Virginia Tech educates nearly half of all engineers who graduate from colleges and universities in Virginia.
The College of Engineering’s new Signature Engineering Building, scheduled to open next year, will provide the College with room to grow and help students in all each of Tech’s colleges.
“This is very much on behalf of Virginia Tech overall,” said College of Engineering Dean Dr. Richard Benson. “I expect that students from all around this university will spend time in that building and get a great education there.”
The structure will include eight multi-use classrooms, as well as a 300-seat auditorium and atrium for university events.
Some engineering departments currently housed in Randolph Hall will move to offices in the new building, located at the corner of Prices Fork Road and Stanger Street.
“I just delight in watching this. It always amazes me that the architects can do this,” Benson said, gesturing to an artist’s rendering of the completed project on an easel he keeps in his office. “And the civil engineers and industrial engineers actually make it all come true. It gives me great respect for civil engineers, architects, industrial engineers and the like.”
The state provided funds for half of the $100 million project, leaving Tech to come up with the rest.
Last spring, Tech was about $15 million short of their $50 million contribution. But now, the project is fully funded and fiscally sound.
According to Benson, donations from corporations, alumni and other private contributors, as well as some loans and long-term pledges, helped to close the gap.
“It’s not unlike buying a house, only a very big, very expensive house,” Benson said of the process.
Beyond providing much-needed office and classroom space, the building itself contains design elements that will make it a unique addition to Tech’s campus. Sensors and electronics in the structure will make the Signature Engineering Building a “living laboratory,” according to Benson.
New high-bandwidth networking in the structure will connect the Blacksburg campus to Tech’s presence in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and to locations around the world, providing Tech and the Blacksburg community with broader exposure and relevance.
Planners anticipate that the structure will be certified LEED Silver, an environmental certification, and Benson is pushing for design elements that would result in gold certification.
“I want this building to be as well-equipped as any,” said Benson. “I hope that 50 years from now, this will still be state-of-the-art.”
Benson expects major construction of the building to be completed toward the end of this year, with an official opening tentatively scheduled for March 2014.
While the Collegiate Times previously reported that the structure was projected to open sometime during this semester, the new schedule reflects additional time needed to attain a certificate of occupancy.
“I think it was largely correct at the time,” said Benson of the initial timeline. “But what I didn’t realize then is that it would take a little longer (in order to) get permission to start outfitting the rooms and moving in equipment.”
Those relocating from Randolph Hall may be able to begin moving prior to the official opening.
During next spring semester, a year from now, events may be scheduled in the structure’s auditorium and atrium. Classes will not be scheduled in the building until summer 2014.
Benson hoped to assuage those with fears that such a modern building will look out of place in Blacksburg.
“We have football fields (worth) of Hokie stone on it,” Benson said. “It probably took a whole year to put the Hokie stone on it. It will be a classic-looking Virginia Tech building.”
The College of Engineering is still seeking donations to help continue funding the building and to help with loans. Those interested can donate through the college’s website.
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