UNLV begins construction of its state-of-the-art engineering building – a project that has been underway for nearly a decade.
Officials from the university and its Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday.
The new facility will allow the university to expand its engineering enrollment to 5,000 students by 2030 – from around 3,000 currently – and provide space for additional faculty.
UNLV has seen a 75% increase in undergraduate engineering enrollment since 2009, as well as an increase in the number of graduate students.
“This growth is not sporadic,” said Rama Venkat, dean of the College of Engineering.
The current facility is unable to support this growth, he said, and the labs are not properly configured for cutting-edge research in areas such as cybersecurity, electronics and robotics.
The new facility will also have a major impact on the community, Venkat said, noting that he hopes it will lead to more community partners and attract more businesses to southern Nevada.
About 60% of UNLV alumni work in Nevada, contributing to the state’s economy.
The three-story, 52,000-square-foot building — which will be constructed between the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall and the Thomas T. Beam Engineering Complex on UNLV’s main campus — is estimated to be approximately 73.6 millions of dollars. Of this amount, $36.8 million is state money and UNLV provides matching funds.
It’s expected to be an 18-month project that will be largely complete by fall 2023, with a planned move-in in January 2024, Venkat said.
The ground floor of the building will be suitable for hands-on experiences for undergraduate students, Venkat said. This will include a makerspace; “flexatorium” that can be used as an auditorium, classroom or event space; and several undergraduate classrooms.
The second floor will focus on emerging technologies such as cybersecurity and electronics — a dry space where chemical or biological species are not used, Venkat said.
The third floor will be a “wet floor” where chemicals are used in areas such as materials research, he said.
The advanced engineering building project has been in the planning stages for almost a decade.
In 2014, Venkat was acting dean of the College of Engineering and was going through the interview process to seek the position permanently.
He was asked what the college needed. His answer: a new building because the college had outgrown its space, which was about 30 years old at the time.
“We need space because we are growing very quickly,” recalls Venkat.
But there were obstacles to getting state funding.
The state legislature appropriated $1.75 million in 2017 for planning the project. And in 2019, the legislature appropriated $20 million to begin construction.
The $20 million in state funding was canceled in 2020, however, due to the impact of the pandemic on the state budget. But last year, the state earmarked $36.8 million for the project, finally allowing it to move forward.