Image: Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas — More than a decade in the making, the highly anticipated, 430,000-square-foot Engineering Education and Research Center (EERC) officially opened at The University of Texas at Austin.
The EERC is the university’s new hub for engineering education, research and innovation and serves as a center for multidisciplinary collaboration within the Cockrell School of Engineering. It is also the new home for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the school’s largest academic department.
The completion of the high-tech facility launches a new era at Texas Engineering. The Cockrell School, along with UT Austin and UT System leaders, celebrated the official dedication of the EERC at an event in its atrium.
“This is a historic day for our university and for the Cockrell School of Engineering,” said Gregory L. Fenves, president of UT Austin. “The EERC was designed to inspire innovation and foster hands-on, experiential learning opportunities for engineering students. This magnificent facility will enable the Cockrell School to continue strengthening its position as a global leader in engineering education and research for decades to come.”
The new facility, which includes two nine-story towers, a three-story atrium and an engineering conference center and auditorium, was designed by Ennead Architects and Jacobs Engineering and was built by Hensel Phelps. Construction began in early 2015.
The EERC signals a movement away from the discipline-specific approach to engineering facilities. With large open spaces, numerous meeting and project rooms, and a makerspace dedicated to multidisciplinary student projects, it is the first UT Austin engineering building designed for cross-departmental collaborations and community-building.
“This is an incredibly exciting time to be an engineering student at UT Austin,” said Sharon L. Wood, dean of the Cockrell School. “As soon as you walk into the EERC entrance, you immediately realize that it is no ordinary building. We will see students collaborating, designing and solving problems in many new ways, and with all of our student services, including advising and career services, under one roof, the EERC provides robust resources that will enhance the students’ experiences.”
One of the most visible spaces in the EERC — the two-story, 23,000-square-foot National Instruments Student Project Center — greets students and visitors on the north side of the atrium and puts student-led designs and teams fully on display. Inside, students have access to equipment, staff members and tools to build and test prototypes and bring their ideas to life.
Additional signature spaces in the EERC include:
- James J. and Miriam B. Mulva Conference Center and Auditorium, the Cockrell School’s first auditorium and largest teaching space, with a maximum capacity of 298 people.
- Texas Instruments Laboratories for electrical and computer engineering students.
- Anwar Family Learning Center and the McKinney Engineering Library, with a collection of over 165,000 volumes.
- Innovation Center, headed by Ethernet co-inventor Bob Metcalfe and the first space dedicated to entrepreneurship training and commercialization programming in the Cockrell School.
Using exposed concrete, a ridged glass skylight roof, a perforated sun-shade canopy that spans the area between the two towers and an atrium with visibility into both towers, the project team set out to create a facility that inspired teaching moments through its own design.
“From floor to ceiling, the EERC was designed to do more than simply facilitate classes, research and meetings,” Wood said. “We envisioned a facility that would inspire creativity and motivate students to think bigger.”
The concept of the EERC began more than 10 years ago when the Cockrell School developed a facilities master plan that identified the need for a central, signature facility that would anchor the school. UT Austin elected to build this facility — the EERC — on the site of the 50-year-old Engineering-Science Building.
The Cockrell School raised almost $70 million in gifts and pledges from more than 280 supporters. The total project cost, which included funding commitments from the UT System Board of Regents and UT Austin, was approximately $310 million.