Apr 22, 2016

New University of Denver Building Signals Explosive Growth of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Studies


The final stretch is nearing for the construction of a modern, high-tech 130,000 square foot building on the campus of the University of Denver (DU).

“We are looking to occupy it by mid-August,” says J.B. Holston of the structure whose official address is 2155 E. Wesley Avenue on the southern end of the tree-lined campus.

“And after that we will be doing a formal opening celebration once the students and faculty are back, and that will be at the end of September,” adds Holston, who is the dean of the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science at DU.

Work on the five-story structure was launched in the spring of 2014, coming on the heels of gifts totaling more than $41 million from the school’s chancellor emeritus Daniel Ritchie; Betty Knoebel, the widow of Denver food-service pioneer Ferdinand Knoebel; and the late Bill Petersen, an alumnus of the University of Denver’s School of Engineering.

Caption“The new building is not only one of the biggest projects we have done here, but the donations for it were the largest we have ever had in our entire history,” notes Theresa Ahrens, communications manager for the school.

DU officials started talks regarding the need for a new engineering and computer science building several years ago during a time when enrollment in the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) course offerings continued to show unprecedented growth.

Until now STEM classes and labs at DU have been housed in a number of structures, including a computer science building near the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, as well as lab and office facilities to the south and west of where the new building is going up.

“This will be the first time everything is going to be all under one roof, which is great from a cultural perspective as well,” says Holston of a structure designed by the school’s Office of the University Architect and the Denver-based architectural firm of Anderson, Mason and Dale Architects.

Founded during the Civil War, the University of Denver, with a total enrollment last year of just under 12,000, is a visually satisfying 125-acre campus distinguished by the presence of the imposing 1890s University Hall; the 215 foot-tall gold-dome Williams Carillon Tower; and the gothic Mary Reed Hall, built in the 1930s as a library and now housing administrative offices.

The roofs of most of the buildings on the campus are made of copper, with the newer roofs gradually changing color to match the dark brown of the other building’s roofs due to time and weather. In the last two decades, such roofs have used an average of 98 percent recycled materials.

Accordingly, the roof on the new engineering and science building will also be made of copper. “It’s a design choice of the architect, but also a substantial proportion of the benefactors wanted it, too,” notes Holston.

The building, which will also house the Knoebel Center for the Study of Aging, will additionally feature a large symposium with a domed ceiling, dining space on the first floor, flexible classrooms, administrative and faculty offices, meeting rooms, and community areas.

Designed to LEED Gold certification criteria, the building upon completion will nearly double the school’s computer science and engineering space.

Engineering and computer science faculty will begin moving into the new building by late July, a process that is expected to take only a few weeks.

Once everyone is in and the doors of the building are open to a new semester of students, says Holston, the facility will serve as a symbol of DU’s determination to supply a growing STEM workforce, particularly in Colorado.

“Some 70 percent of undergraduates to the University of Denver come from out of state,” Holston notes. “But 70 percent of the graduates of our school stay in state, which means that we are seeing a tremendous demand for a workforce in the STEM fields.”







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