SmithGroupJJR collaborated with University of Illinois community members to develop the
Electrical and Computer Engineering Building, the 2016 Laboratory of the Year winner.
The Urbana, Ill. building had a total project budget of $95 million. Subsidized by a combination of state
funding and private donations, the project
was supported by the “Illinois Jobs Now!”
plan, signed by former Gov. Pat Quinn in
2009—the bill included funding to support
the construction of the ECE Building. The
state of Illinois paid for half of the project,
with the other half being funded by private
donors, alumni, and corporations, such as
Texas Instruments, Intel, and the Caterpillar
Foundation. Additionally, the Student
Sustainability Committee at Illinois (SSC)
provided a $225,000 grant for the ECE
Building Solar Power System Project. The
grant supports the building’s photovoltaic
array, a crucial element of the building’s net-zero energy plan.
Fundraising efforts for the new ECE
Building are still ongoing. Private donors
can purchase specific items from “Buy a
Bit,” the university’s electronic wish list.
Available items include cleanroom “bunny
suits,” digital displays, and lab benches,
with costs ranging from $50 to $10,000 per
item. Donors are thanked with a mention
on the fundraising campaign website and a
commemorative pin. As of press time, total
giving towards the ECE Building project has
reached $90.5 million.
The total construction cost for the ECE
Building was $73,406,843—the rest of the
budget went to furniture, lab equipment,
support equipment, and moving costs.
“ECE Illinois involved their entire family
in the process,” said Victor Cardona, AIA,
vice president & senior laboratory planner
with SmithGroupJJR. “Being a student-centered project, the department wanted to
hear from both undergraduate and graduate
students. They participated in our focus
groups like everyone else did. Additionally,
we displayed to the project’s progress as we
went along, gathering the student input.
Their feedback helped us in making design
With a total gross size of 229,867 square
feet, the ECE Building is nearly twice as
large as its predecessor, Everitt Laboratory,
An atrium lobby welcomes visitors when
they first enter the building. About a quarter
of the facility is dedicated to instructional
labs, and another quarter is taken up
by research offices. Research labs and
classrooms comprise about 30 percent of the
space. The rest of the building is occupied by
cleanroom facilities, lounges, administrative
and support services areas, and other
rooms, including a 400-seat auditorium.
The Fabrication Lab alone has about 3,900
square feet of instructional space.
“Living room” joins two separate sections
Research Professor & Grainger Endowed
Chair Emeritus Philip Krein is chairman
of the ECE New Building Committee. He
said, “The cleanroom has major impact
on the overall building energy budget,
and actual operating experience in other
facilities was essential to refining the model.
There were challenges communicating
detailed requirements. In the end, the
‘isolated ballroom’ concept made most of the
requirements relatively easy to implement, With a total gross size of 229,867 square feet, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Building is intended as a home for a living
laboratory that will influence future research and put science on display to the university community. (Credit: Liam Frederick)