Annex to Spark Campus-wide Creativity, Innovation

Gazing at the computer monitors in his office, UI College of Engineering Dean Alec Scranton clicks through a series of slides documenting the college’s growth and progress over the past 10 years.

All the trend lines are marching upward: Undergraduate enrollment has risen more than 75 percent, from 1,200 in 2005 to 2,120 in 2014.  Faculty research productivity has increased from $240,000 per faculty member a decade ago to $600,000 today.  There are new partnerships with industry and K-12 education, new programs in experiential learning and cross-campus collaboration, and new research in areas critical to quality of life in the 21st century.

This impressive, college-wide growth hasn’t happened by accident, Scranton explains. “We’ve been highly successful in reaching many of our strategic plan objectives,” he says. “Now it’s time to pursue a goal that we knew would result from our increased activity — a new facility to accommodate not only our enrollment growth, but expanded research, outreach, and service.”

Scranton clicks on another slide and reveals an architect’s rendering of the planned South Annex Addition to the

as it might appear at dusk on a summer evening.

Extending south from the existing Engineering building, the new addition transforms the outdoor John Deere Plaza into a two-level, glass-walled lobby, connecting the Seamans Center to its new three-story annex, which parallels the west façade of the Old Capitol Mall and parking structure. The annex itself is elevated above ground level, allowing pedestrians to pass or linger beneath it as they move down the hill toward Madison Street.

The 70,000-square-foot addition, which was approved by the Iowa Board of Regents in September 2014, addresses multiple strategic needs that will enable the college to maintain its momentum and growth.

Expanded classrooms

The college urgently requires larger, better-equipped classrooms, as does the university as a whole. The new building addition will provide two large, general assignment classrooms featuring state-of-the-art technology and designed to accommodate the “flipped” classroom concept of more active engagement and problem solving.

Collaborative learning spaces

Designing new processes, products, and devices is central to all fields of engineering. The Annex will include advanced, digitally-enabled teaching spaces to promote team-based, multi-disciplinary educational experiences.

Encouraging student success

The Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences was completed in 2001 and provided a fresh design for integrating student study space throughout the building. The new building addition will expand and enhance these “learning commons” spaces and also provide a new engineering student services suite.

Learning and discovery in fluid mechanics

The College of Engineering is home to IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering, one of the oldest and most preeminent hydraulic research and teaching laboratories in the world. By uniting major areas of fluid mechanics, the new addition will promote interdisciplinary research in the College of Engineering and across campus.


Designed by BNIM Architects of Des Moines, the Annex will reflect the goals of the UI’s Sustainability Initiative. “I’m hoping we can achieve LEED platinum certification,” Scranton says. “We’re incorporating lots of green space, with active water filtration ponds and re-use of gray water, and we’re looking at photovoltaics as well.”

Center for Computer Aided De sign (CCAD)

Like the rest of the college, CCAD has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. The new building addition will fill CCAD’s critical need for space, and will facilitate student participation in CCAD research programs.

Engineering and art

The new annex will enhance the college’s innovative collaborations with UI arts programs, and the centerpiece of the new engineering lobby will be the Project Design Studio, a unique, hands-on “maker” classroom unlike any other facility on campus.

Engineering student Allison Kindig finds this aspect of the building particularly exciting. She’s enrolled in the UI’s interdisciplinary Fabrication and Design: Hand Built Bicycle course, comprised equally of art and engineering majors.

Besides learning technical skills, it’s really interesting to see how art students and engineering students approach things,” says Kindig, a Presidential Scholar and 2014 Homecoming Queen, who will graduate in May 2015 with a degree in industrial engineering. “In general, art students have really creative ideas and will find out by trial and error what works and what doesn’t. Engineering students take a more systematic approach, using math and science, which can eliminate some of the guesswork.

“We come from different fields, but we all share the same foundation, which is creativity and thinking outside the box, and that’s what the new Project Design Studio is all about,” she continues. “When you create a designated space for both arts and engineering, it reflects an assumption that the two fields should coexist. I think that speaks volumes, and will be a huge draw for incoming students.”

Although the Annex won’t be completed by the time Allison Kindig graduates, the project will be moving quickly by then. Construction is expected to start in early 2016, with completion in 2018. Total project cost is estimated at $37 million, which will be funded through a combination of university resources and contributions from alumni, friends, and corporate partners.

“We’re proud that this new addition, built without state appropriations, will benefit the entire state of Iowa,” Scranton says. “Our multidisciplinary research programs in water sustainability, the Iowa Flood Center, advanced manufacturing, digital human system integration, nanomaterials, and renewable energy systems will be housed in the new space, and all have tremendous potential for improving quality of life and enhancing the state’s economy.

We like to say that that our college educates engineers who are ‘something more,’” he adds. “The Annex is the ‘something more’ that will enable us to better address the grand challenges of the 21st century, and to remind the rest of the world that those challenges are being solved, with artful innovation, at the University of Iowa.”