MAY 1, 2014

Come early 2015, West Virginia University will add to its ever-expanding Evansdale campus.

Since the engineering college’s inception in 1887, the school’s many different majors have been largely dissociated from each other. With construction expected to be completed before the new year, the Advanced Engineering Research Building aims to provide a currently lacking union among those different fields offered by the college.

According to Mary Dillon, the director of marketing and communications at the Statler College of Engineering, the college’s growth over the past few years greatly influenced the idea for the AERB. “The number of incoming students has continued to grow exponentially over the past few years; the college has basically outgrown the facilities it currently has,” said Dillon.

The new building, currently under construction by the Massaro Corporation, is located in front of the Evansdale Library, and close to the current trio of engineering buildings on the Evansdale campus. Construction officially began in January of 2013, and although construction is 30 days behind schedule, the college hopes to officially open the building to students and faculty sometime in early 2015. Dillon said that the recent winter weather has been the largest contributor to the delay, with no major issues having arisen to date.

Totaling close to $43 million, the Advanced Engineering Research Building is mostly funded through private gifts from Ben Statler, a WVU graduate and main contributor to the college. Additional funding is coming from the state of West Virginia, as well as the university itself through a capital campaign said Dillon.

“[The university’s] hope is that [the AERB] will become a hub for research activity – a place where people from multiple disciplines can come together to try to solve engineering problems,” said Dillon. With over 75,000 usable square feet spreading across four floors, the AERB will offer facilities to bring groups from different areas to work collectively on an abundance of different projects.

Dillon said that a new laboratory, clean room, and a learning center highlight the features of the new building, effectively filling the more modern needs of the school. Moreover, Dillon added that the building will contain several classrooms and offices, as well as 15,000 unused square feet for future aspirations.

Aside from the much needed unity for the engineering college, Dillon said that the Advanced Engineering Research Building will provide much needed space for both students and faculty.

The engineering building structure currently consists of three buildings: the Mineral Resources Building, the Engineering Sciences Building, and the Engineering Research Building, and according to Dillon, that is just not enough anymore. “Right now the place is just bursting at the seams,” said Dillon. “There just isn’t enough available space for the collaborative relationships we hope to be a part of at the Statler College of Engineering.”

Because the Advanced Engineering Research Building will have several new offices for its employees, Dillon said that the engineering college hopes to renovate the older buildings with the newly vacant space. “It will be constant shuffling for about a year or so, but then at that point, everybody will be in something newer than what they currently have,” said Dillon.

Ian Funderburke, a freshman engineering student at WVU, is looking forward to the completion of the new building. “From what I’ve heard and read, it looks like the new building is going to benefit everyone. I think I’m most looking forward to using the new facilities, the one’s we have now are good, but I’m sure the new ones in the AERB are going to blow the current ones out of the water,” said Funderburke.

Unfortunately, as with most construction at a four year university, many of the current students at WVU will not get the chance to witness the completion of the Advanced Engineering Research Building. “I’m lucky that I’m a freshman, I’m going to have many years to fully realize the potential of the new building,” said Funderburke. “I really hope I have a few classes there before I graduate.”

Dillon expects the stress and workload to increase dramatically when the building nears completion, but right now, the school is filled with enthusiasm. “Anytime you get a new building it’s always exciting, it’s new for everybody,” said Dillon. “I’m sure there will be a little bit of jealousy for the people who do get to move in there, but I think their day is coming too.”