Bucknell University's Board of Trustees has approved the construction of Academic East, a 78,000-square-foot facility that will deepen the dynamic learning experiences that distinguish a Bucknell education.
Approved during the board's Oct. 18–20 meeting on campus, Academic East will house more than 25 laboratories for the College of Engineering — expanding lab space available to engineering students and faculty by 50 percent — as well as more than 30 offices and four classrooms, which will be shared by the College of Engineering and the Department of Education. The University expects construction of Academic East to begin in spring 2018 and conclude in time for the start of the fall 2019 semester. The $37.9 million project will be funded through a combination of the expenditure of existing debt and donations, including a $6 million gift from the late Richard Garman '56.
Its opening at the start of the 2019–20 academic year will allow the college to separate labs that are currently serving double duty into dedicated education and research spaces. The move will enable faculty to more freely pursue research projects and increase opportunities for undergraduates to work side-by-side with their professors on those projects — a hallmark of a Bucknell education. Students will also benefit from the increased space dedicated to independent research, including design studios reserved exclusively for senior design projects.
"Academic East is an investment in our belief that learning is most meaningful when it is a deeply personal experience," said Patrick Mather, dean of the College of Engineering. "When students see their work come to life in their own hands, with their own eyes, they will never forget — even when things don't go the way they expect them to."
The building will facilitate research tied to the medical field and provide space for work from an array of disciplines broadly related to human health, including materials science, fluid mechanics, food science and sustainable transportation. It will serve as a nexus for interdisciplinary scholarship and strengthen the Bucknell-Geisinger Research Initiative, a partnership with Geisinger Health System fostering collaborations that span academic departments and explore the most pressing challenges in health care.
Academic East will also provide a new home for the Department of Education, bringing the program closer to the social science departments housed in Academic West and supporting existing and future education-engineering collaborations. In addition to providing office space for education faculty, Academic East will feature a teaching lab and collaborative work space for students, offering further opportunities for hands-on learning.
"A key component of Bucknell's educational mission is the notion that some of the most meaningful learning experiences occur at the intersection of disciplines," said Bucknell President John Bravman. "By bringing faculty from diverse backgrounds together in a space with the resources to meet their needs, we deepen our commitment to that prospect."
Academic East is being designed by architecture firm Stantec to meet the requirements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, and will incorporate energy-saving technology and locally sourced and renewable materials as well as natural ventilation. Sustainable features of the building's design include a smart heating and cooling system that saves energy when rooms are not in use, a three-story atrium providing natural ventilation, and two plant-filled "green walls" to bring the natural world indoors.
The building itself will also act as a vehicle for sustainability research. An alternative-energy lab will monitor environmental data such as water runoff from the two green roofs (one of which is a dedicated research space), in an effort to better understand how the building and others like it interact with the natural world.
The facility will sit opposite Academic West, a 73,000-square-foot academic building providing offices and classrooms for the social sciences that opened in 2013, and complete a new, open quadrangle to the rear of Bertrand Library. Its architectural style will blend with the Collegiate Georgian style that characterizes Bucknell and partially mirror the edifice of Academic West, while also including more contemporary design elements that enhance the building's sustainability, such as ample windows providing natural light and a large canopy roof over part of the building. A bend at the center of the building, meanwhile, will expand the eastward view over the Susquehanna River Valley and visually reinforce the University's close ties with the river that flows below.
The opening of Academic East will allow the University to make needed renovations to the Olin Science Building, which will significantly enhance the spaces occupied by the departments of mathematics and physics. The new facility will also allow for renovations to sections of the Dana and Breakiron Engineering buildings.