New Engineering Facility to Define Future of Learning, Discovery

The Cockrell School's vision for leadership in education, technology innovation and research is exciting, but requires modern facilities for the 21st century.

EERC rendering

The new Engineering Education and Research Center (EERC) will house hands-on student projects such as the solar car.

The vision for the Cockrell School's leadership in engineering education, technology innovation and research discoveries is exciting, but fulfillment of that vision is directly influenced by one critical element – the need for modern facilities for the 21st century.

Consider that among peer engineering programs across the country, an average of 400,000 to 1 million square feet has been added in the past eight years to accommodate new growth and development per institution. In comparison, the main UT campus has added 144,000 square feet in the past 25 years for engineering. The time has come to respond to this critical need for facilities expansion, as detailed in the Cockrell School's Master Facilities Plan.

The first step and the keystone of the master plan is to construct the Engineering Education Research Center (EERC) by 2015. The EERC will serve three main functions: provide unique laboratory space for hands-on student projects; support collaborative research by teams of faculty and students; and be the new home of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The UT System Board of Regents voiced its support of the Cockrell School's Master Plan when, in February 2010, the regents authorized architectural design to begin on the EERC. And in August, the Board of Regents committed the first funding for the building: $30 million in bonds backed by the Permanent University Fund. In the coming months, the selection of a world-class architecture team for the EERC will be announced and the initial concepts for the design shared. The current schedule is to complete the EERC design by late 2011 and present it to the Board of Regents for approval early in 2012 with construction commencing soon after. Completion of the EERC is planned for late 2015.

"The EERC is a 'destination building,'" says Gregory L. Fenves, dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering. "It will be a landmark on the UT campus, designed to stimulate the imagination of our students, and a spirit of innovation among those inside and around it. Our objective is to create a space where students can seamlessly pursue hands-on projects. Faculty and students from multiple departments will convene and collaborate, fostering interdisciplinary research on real-world issues with a positive impact on society," he says.

"It will draw the best minds—intellectual and entrepreneurial—to the Cockrell School, to teach and to learn. From across the UT campus, State of Texas and the U.S., and indeed throughout the world, the brightest faculty, students, inventors and entrepreneurs will thrive in the synergy of the EERC," he says.

In coming months we will share more details about the EERC's design, projected economic impact from its presence as part of the UT campus, architectural concepts and much more.

Q&A about Funding the EERC

How much will the EERC cost to design and build and how will it be funded?
Cost projections are approximately $290 million for 420,000 square feet of space. The plan looks to three sources of funds: the University with bonds backed by the Permanent University Fund (PUF) — $90 million; the State of Texas — $100 million; and alumni and friends of the Cockrell School — $100 million.

Why can't UT pay for the entire cost of the building and is it possible for the Cockrell School to raise $100 million?
UT Austin faces the same challenges that universities around the country confront: building new facilities is not possible without significant help of large gifts from donors. Particularly during these economic times, state revenue sources are simply not available to fund 100 percent of the costs.

Have you made progress on securing any of the $290 million?
Yes! At the Aug. 12, 2010 Board of Regents meeting, the Regents pledged $30 million of PUF funding as the first step toward support of the EERC. This pledge is contingent on the Cockrell School's ability to secure $60 million in gift funds. In other words, it is a $1 for $2 dollar matching gift challenge. UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa speaks on this subject in his State of the UT System presentation at the August 2010 Board of Regents meeting on the EERC and the importance of philanthropy to this and other projects.