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School of Engineering Breaks Ground on New Research Facility

Monday, May 10, 2010

School of Engineering administrators, faculty, staff and other university dignitaries gathered Friday, May 7 on the School of Engineering complex lawn to mark the ceremonial start of construction on a new $21.5 million dollar research building.

The Measurement, Materials and Sustainable Environment Center is funded in part through an award from the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology Construction Grant Program. The School of Engineering and KU will contribute $6.5 million in matching funds for the project.

The 34,600 net square-foot building will provide a unique opportunity for several engineering and campuswide research groups to work together on projects and to develop commercial applications based on project results. The facility will contain space solely for research purposes. It will not be used for classrooms or offices.

"This facility will serve a much-needed role in expanding research space and enhancing research opportunities on campus.  Different engineering disciplines will collaborate in new ways, clearing the path for exciting innovations, with real-world implications,' said School of Engineering Dean Stuart Bell.  "It’s not just a lucky break to be in a position to meet the qualifications for the National Institute of Standards of Technology funding that will help construct this building.  KU has several teams working in a cross-disciplinary way on a variety of advanced research, a key component for receiving NIST funding."

The center will allow researchers to develop a solution to a problem, test and certify products, all in one place, which isn’t possible in many research environments, according to Glen Marotz, associate dean for research and graduate programs at the School of Engineering and the principal investigator for the grant. 

"We will be able to test potential products to industry standards and get them certified for possible commercial use at this facility,” Marotz said. “There are a lot of research results that are not transferable into commercial applications because they are not certified for use in specific application."

Whether it’s harvesting algae for fuels, developing carbon fibers to improve aircraft structures, or utilizing nano-particles as part of a drug delivery system, researchers from a wide variety of science and engineering disciplines will collaborate to develop and implement their innovations, Marotz said. 

The building is slated for completion by the beginning of 2012. It will incorporate the latest in green technology and will include elements that will qualify it for at least LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification under the rigorous Green Building Rating System devised by the U.S. Green Building Council. 

Construction of the building is from a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The architecture firm on the project is Treanor Architects. Construction is by J.E. Dunn Construction.

The Measurement, Materials and Sustainable Environment Center is part of the KU School of Engineering’s “Building on Excellence Initiative” — a long-term vision that drives growth in facilities, students, leadership and research.

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