Hydro Lab to be Expanded, Modernized

8/14/2014 10:07:00 AM

The Hydrosystems Laboratory will be expanded and modernized over the next two years in a $12 million project supported by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the College of Engineering and the campus.

The expansion of the Hydro Lab is phase one of the larger Civil and Environmental Engineering Infrastructure Modernization Plan, which will include developing resources and support for the renovation and expansion of Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory as well, over the next three to five years. In this first phase, one to two floors will be added to the Hydrosystems Lab, the footprint will be enlarged and the building will be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The newly created space will include laboratories to support modern instructional methods that focus on hands-on learning, as well as additional classrooms and office space.

Completed in 1967, the Hydro Lab has been the home of the department’s Environmental Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering area. It features a large, central experimental bay for hydrological research, as well as additional labs, classrooms and offices. The renovations will create space for use by all CEE areas, including areas designed for cross-disciplinary collaboration.

“We created the cross-cutting programs, and now we need to provide the infrastructure, the modernized space, that will allow the faculty to implement this vision for our students,” said Professor Benito Mariñas, Interim Department Head and Ivan Racheff Professor of Environmental Engineering.

Professor Marcelo García is leading the committee that will plan the redesign. García is director of the Ven Te Chow Hydrosystems Laboratory and the M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Endowed Chair in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“We have these classes that have a lot of design content, but we don’t have a lot of design space,” García said. “We want to afford the students more hands-on experience. Right now, my feeling is that between the crane bay in Newmark and the crane bay over in Hydro, students probably feel a lot more like spectators of the whole scene. We want to get them more involved, to use more of the lab and to do more things.”

The longer term plan to modernize CEE’s campus buildings stems from a desire to ensure that the department’s facilities support emerging innovative instructional methods being introduced by the faculty, said Professor Liang Liu, CEE Associate Head and Director of Undergraduate Studies.

“We have a lot of new ideas, new ways of teaching our students,” Liu said. “We need to ask ourselves, ‘What will the new facilities be that can cater to the new pedagogies, the new ideas? What are the spaces that will be needed?’”

The design of the renovated Hydro lab is scheduled to be completed by fall 2015, with construction finished by spring 2016.

The project is one of six facility projects totaling $23 million within the College of Engineering that are being funded by the departments, the college and the campus matching funds program. The projects will provide upgrades to instruction that will impact an estimated 6,000 students across the University of Illinois engineering campus.


Photo by Kalev Leetaru