Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Engineering Discovery Building begins construction, aims to increase collaborative research

Alex Luevano
The Chemical and Petroleum building on Dean Keeton and Speedway.

Ever since its construction in 1985, project manager Keith Westmoreland said the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering (CPE) building, while full of interconnected faculty and students, felt disjointed and separate with its dark isolated rooms. The construction of a new Engineering Discovery Building brings a fresh environment for collaborative learning and research.

Carried out by architecture firm CO Architects and construction company Vaughn Construction, the 210,000 square foot building will provide space for 32 faculty researchers and 335 graduate students who are part of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering and Chemical Engineering departments. The project aims to improve research and teaching through an open and integrated environment, said John Ekerdt, associate dean for research at the Cockrell School of Engineering. Construction is expected to finish in 2026. 

“Where (in the building) do you meet to work and talk?” Eckerdt said. “Where do you learn from others and network? That’s lacking because those spaces were all occupied as offices.”

Ekerdt said the new building resembles a neighborhood, with offices and labs grouped together by research topic to increase teamwork. It also includes free teaching spaces for different departments across the University. 

The project will demolish the Service Building, constructed in 1951. The project will take its spot next to the Engineering Education and Research Center (EER), Westmoreland said. 

Petroleum engineering professor Eric van Oort said he worked in the CPE building before relocating to the Engineering Research Center. While originally focusing on petroleum, van Oort said he now researches geothermal wells and carbon capture.

“There is a lot of diversification going on and a lot of new developments,” van Oort said. “What you need is really the flexibility to address that quickly.”

Van Oort said the architects talked to the professors and researchers, giving them a chance to personalize their own labs and offices.

“(The University) needs to continue to attract talent, and if (we) can offer these very high-tech lab environments, that is an additional selling point to attract talent,” van Oort said.

Ekerdt said the CPE building feels dingy with the lack of windows and the secluded offices and labs. The new center will welcome more natural light with windows stretching from floor to ceiling throughout the building. 

“I don’t know how you measure that, but you can feel it,” Ekerdt said. “Imagine sunshine behind every door and everyone’s got a smile. That’s (what) this building will do.”

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About the Contributor
Alex Luevano, Associate Photo Editor
Alex is a four year RTF major from San Antonio, TX. He is currently an Associate Photo Editor at the Texan.