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SmithGroupJJR’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Building named 2016 Lab of the Year

Sustainable features like chilled beams and solar screens help the University of Illinois research facility use 50% less energy than minimum building energy efficiency standards.

April 27, 2016 |
SmithGroupJJR’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Building wins Lab of the Year award

The New Electrical and Computer Engineering Building, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Photo courtesy SmithGroupJJR. Click here to enlarge.


The University of Illinois’s new Electrical and Computer Engineering Building has been named R&D Magazine’s 2016 Laboratory of the Year.

SmithGroupJJR designed the $95 million, 230,000-sf research facility. Located on the school’s Urbana campus, the ECE Building contains the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE Illinois), which is known for its research in transistors, integrated circuits, LEDs and plasma displays.

The award, in its 50th year, honors new and renovated labs that promote sustainable practices and creativity in the design of modern laboratories.

The designers stressed energy efficiency. The building uses 50% less energy than minimum building energy efficiency standards, and it is targeting a LEED Platinum certification. Some of the sustainable feature include high-performance LED lighting, heat recovery chillers with net metering, and a chilled beam cooling system. 

A terra cotta rainscreen system covers 70% of the building envelope, while double paned glass covers the remaining 30. Solar screens and a three-story canopy of angled louvers protect the building’s glazing from solar heat gain.

At nearly double the size of the old Everitt Laboratory, the ECE Building has space for separate labs and classrooms, and a lobby with communal seating.

"Our goal was to deliver a building that represents the stature of this world-renowned department, positions its students and researchers at the forefront of emerging technology, and acts as a catalyst for efficient building energy standards on the ILLINOIS campus,” SmithGroupJJR Project Manager Carolina Lopez, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, said in a statement. “This award is a testament of that unparalleled effort and proof that this facility goes beyond bricks and mortar to represent the department’s mission and values.”

Two Illinois-based firms were also on the Building Team. Williams Brothers Construction was the prime contractor and KJWW Engineering Consultants served as mechanical engineer. Construction was completed in 2014.

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