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Mechanical Engineering Building renovation project gaining momentum

MIEB addition
Artist's conception of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Building renovation and expansion as seen from Engineering Drive. Larger Image

It's the chance of a lifetime to fix an old friend--a building that's seen engineering evolve from drafting tabletops to desktop computers.

The college has announced a new effort to fund a $33 million renovation of the Mechanical Engineering Building. Of the total cost, $23 million would be funded by the state of Wisconsin. The college must raise the remaining $10 million in gift funds.

The project received initial approval at a campus planning committee meeting in January. It has been forwarded to UW System, where it will be reviewed and ranked at the August meeting of the Board of Regents. Upon approval at that level, the project will be forwarded to the State Building Commission.

The Mechanical Engineering Building was constructed in 1931 around an existing machine shop, known today as the "Sawtooth," that was built in 1921. There has been no major renovation of the facility since its construction. Many minor construction projects have made the building more functional. A major renovation has been needed for some time, but could not be undertaken because the college had no space to house the building's occupants during construction, says Dean Paul Peercy.

Three-story addition highlights renovation
To create a facility for 21st-century engineering in this pre-WWII building, plans call for tearing down the Sawtooth structure and replacing it with a three story addition. This will provide 35,000 assignable square feet and alleviate a space deficit for the current ME occupants: the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, the Manufacturing Systems Engineering Program, and the Nuclear Reactor Laboratory run by the Department of Engineering Physics.

Major remodeling and a new electrical and data infrastructure will enable the existing ME building to support modern research labs and classrooms. A new central HVAC system will replace the substandard, multiple mechanical systems currently serving the building. A new elevator will make all areas of the building accessible to the disabled. Currently, such accessibility is limited. (For example, the only elevator is a freight elevator that must be reached by passing through a restricted-area machine shop, and this elevator does not go to the basement or fourth floor.) A new main entryway will be created on Engineering Drive, facing the new Lot 17 parking ramp across the street.

The project will also enable better consolidation of the Department of Industrial Engineering. "Many of our research centers are located off campus because there's no space for them here," says IE department chair Harry Steudel. "We are losing opportunities for our faculty and students to interact with each other, especially across disciplines. Bringing them together in one facility will create a synergy within our research and education efforts that is very exciting."

Engineering Centers Building: Opportunity means timing is critical

The college is moving quickly with planning and fund raising for the project because of a unique opportunity, says Peercy. "The completion of the Engineering Centers Building (ECB) in 2002 will give us the key component we need to make the project happen: space." When the Centers Building is completed, part of it would be used to house occupants of the Mechanical Engineering Building who must move out during the renovation, he says.  

"Timing is critical. The ME renovation absolutely cannot occur without the space ECB will provide," he adds. "If we don't raise enough private funds in time, when the space in ECB is available, there will not be another chance to do it later. There simply isn't enough space elsewhere on the campus for the large number of people and labs that would be displaced. We'd lose our golden opportunity to make this happen.

"We hope everyone will recognize that we have the chance to leverage state funds with private funds, and also leverage the surge space needed for the project with the Centers Building. It's a combination of factors we'll never see again."

Naming opportunities planned for project donors

Detailed plans for the project are in progress, but will definitely include opportunities for a facility to be named after a donor, says Peercy. Some of these proposed opportunities include:

  • one 150-student lecture/tech transfer auditorium
  • one 75-student virtual reality demo classroom
  • six 35-student lecture/CAD/flexible classrooms
  • two 12-student "creativity labs" with storage for ongoing student projects
  • manufacturing systems engineering teaching lab
  • simulation teaching lab
  • human factors teaching lab
  • financial engineering teaching lab

A variety of research laboratories are planned for construction or renovation which may also be named:

  • mechatronic and biomechanical design
  • micro-/nanosystems
  • computational and experimental mechanics
  • automation and robotics
  • energy efficiency and renewable energy
  • Polymer Processing Lab
  • Nuclear Reactor Laboratory

For more information on the Mechanical Engineering Building Renovation Project, contact:

Ed Manuel
Senior Director of Development

Julie Rae
Director of Development University of Wisconsin Foundation
1848 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53708
Tel: 608/263-4545