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University of Illinois’ Electrical and Computer Engineering Building named Lab of the Year

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The Electrical and Computer Engineering Building at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign has been named R&D Mangazine's 2016 Laboratory of the Year.

The Electrical and Computer Engineering Building at the University of Illinois in Urbana- Champaign has been named R&D Mangazine's 2016 Laboratory of the Year.

The net-zero $95 million, 230,000-square-foot building designed by SmithGroupJJR is considered one of the nation's highest performing teaching and research facilities. It serves as the new home for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE ILLINOIS), which has a deep tradition of innovative faculty, hands-on classroom experiences and groundbreaking research that helped shape the modern world with the advent of transistors, integrated circuits, LED and plasma displays.

R&B's international Lab of the Year competition is now in its 50th year of recognizing the best new and renovated laboratories that combine all aspects of the building into a superior working environment. It showcases new and emerging thinking, sustainable practices and creative responses to challenges in the design, construction and operation of modern laboratories.

E.C.E received the significant recognition for its status to promote interdisciplinary interaction in a net-zero ready facility. Through the design and construction of this facility, ILLINOIS was determined to set new standards in building energy use and invested in strategies that could enable the building to supply its own energy.

At 230,000 square feet, it’s nearly twice the size of its former location within Everitt Laboratory. It houses all of ECE ILLINOIS’ instructional labs, some of which now have adjoining classrooms and room for faculty members and teaching assistants to stage equipment and test out concepts without occupying valuable lab space. The building’s soaring lobby also features communal seating, where students can collaborate outside of class or sip coffee while they study.

The Texas Instruments Electronics Design Lab provides an improved space where all ECE ILLINOIS freshmen take Introduction to Electronics. This instructional clean room is the first of its kind for undergraduates, allowing them to start their college careers with hands-on learning of cutting-edge nanofabrication technology.

SmithGroupJJR served as design architect, lab planner, structural engineer and landscape architect for the five-story research and teaching complex. The contractor for the ECE Building was Peoria, Illinois-based Williams Brothers Construction, Inc. and KJWW, Rock Island, Illinois, served as mechanical engineer for the project.

The $95 million project, which completed construction in 2014, was funded half by the State of Illinois and half by private and corporate donations.

Judging for this year’s competition was performed by an expert panel of architects, engineers, equipment suppliers, researchers and the editors of R&D Magazine, Laboratory Design newsletter.

Awards for the Laboratory of the Year competition were presented at the 2016 Laboratory Design Conference on April 26, 2016 at the Royal Sonesta in Houston, Texas.