Trustees approve building project for Agricultural and Biological Engineering

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Final plans for a renovation and construction project to modernize the Agricultural Engineering Building at an estimated cost of $44.5 million were approved by the Board of Trustees at their May 6 meeting. 

Located on Shortlidge Road on the University Park campus, the building houses the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE), a department jointly administered by the College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Engineering.

Designed and constructed in the late 1930s, the building last was expanded in 1968. Meanwhile, undergraduate enrollment in ABE has increased by about 260 percent since 2001, and research expenditures have risen by 220 percent in the last 10 years. This growth has strained the current facility, limiting additional progress, according to Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

"The department long has played a crucial role in improving agricultural processes and technologies, protecting our natural resources, and developing sustainable, biologically based products and renewable energy sources," Roush said. "The department's research, extension and increasingly popular academic programs require modern laboratories, classrooms and shared spaces that promote a multidisciplinary approach, and this project will blend historical aesthetics with state-of-the-art facilities to achieve that goal."

The front portion of the new building will be renovated and will maintain its historic façade, but the remaining 80 percent of the structure will be demolished and rebuilt. The 93,500-square-foot project will add an additional 35,000 square feet of building to the site. The building is currently 64,533 square feet (its entire footprint), with 44,581 of that as “assignable square feet” or space that includes offices, conference rooms, classrooms and labs. After the project is complete it will be 93,522 square feet with 55,974 assignable square feet.

The project will feature an open-concept design with a number of sustainability elements aimed at achieving LEED certification. Those will include energy efficient design, a green roof, water conservation technologies, renewable materials and the utilization of natural light.

The building will house five multi-purpose classrooms, more than 30 comprehensive research and teaching labs, and several conference rooms and collaboration lounges. Construction is set to begin this summer, with completion scheduled for January 2018.

The building project marks an exciting time in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, noted Paul Heinemann, professor and head of ABE.

"Our faculty are creating innovative solutions to meet the world's demand for food, fuel and fiber in sustainable ways," he said. "Our students are eager to apply their skills and knowledge to real-world challenges. The new Agricultural Engineering Building marks an important step forward for our program by providing the 21st-century facilities our faculty and students need to solve society's most pressing problems."

The ABE project also will be the first at Penn State to employ the integrated project delivery (IPD) method. This approach aims to cut down construction costs and unexpected project delays by involving all major entities -- building owners/users, architects, engineers and contractors -- in the project from its inception.

In the traditional building approach, all parties are contractually separated, which can lead to inefficiencies in the process, miscommunication, a higher number of change orders and other issues. Other prominent organizations using the IPD process to develop capital projects include Intel, Disney, Michigan State University and Sutter Health.

EYP Architecture & Engineering of New York designed the project, and DPR Construction is the general contractor.

Last Updated May 13, 2016