Iowa State University announced plans last week to build a $63.3 million complex to house its Department of Ag and Biosystems Engineering. It will be a key part in the university's effort to secure a national role in renewable fuels research, says ISU President Gregory Geoffroy.
The complex is to be built once the money has been raised. It will include research and instructional laboratories, classrooms and administrative offices for the department. The ISU Department of Ag and Biosystems Engineering is part of both the College of Agriculture and the College of Engineering.
The new facility will also house ISU's Office of Biorenewables Programs, which has played a leading role in the university's push to put ISU and Iowa at the center of the emerging U.S. bioenergy program.
Bait for BP company project
ISU officials unveiled plans for the new complex September 29 when they also announced a $5 million donation—the first major private gift for the project.
The first building planned to be built will be called Elings Hall, named after the donor, Virgil Elings. In 1961 he earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at ISU. He taught for 25 years at the University of California then went on to become a businessman and philanthropist.
Groundbreaking and construction of the facility on the west edge of ISU's campus in Ames are still years away, but officials are excited.
Critical to ISU's future
ISU is courting petroleum industry giant BP, trying to convince the company to locate its proposed Energy Biosciences Institute near the university. In June, BP announced plans to devote $500 million over 10 years to the institute. The firm is inviting several universities to submit proposals for the institute, explaining to BP why the institute should be located near their university.
Competition is stiff among the universities to try to get BP to choose their school, acknowledges Robert Brown, head of ISU's Office of Biorenewables Programs.
He says the proposed BP institute isn't directly tied to the new ISU complex announced September 29, but Brown and others say the new ISU complex would help ISU attract and retain talented researchers and students. That's certainly a plus in helping to land the BP institute too.
Legislative funding also needed
This new ag and biosystems facility will be part of a planned 166,000 square-foot complex to be built west of Bissell Road between the College of Engineering's Howe Hall and the ISU College of Design. The complex will include three separate buildings to replace outdated laboratories, classrooms and offices on campus. The ISU Office of Biorenewables Programs will also be housed in this complex.
"In honor of Virgil Elings' generosity, Iowa State will request from the state Board of Regents to name the part of this complex that will serve as the new agricultural and biosystems building-Elings Hall," says Geoffroy.
Cost of the new complex is estimated at $63.3 million. The first phase will cost up to $30 million. Approximately $12 million of this amount must come from private support, and fund-raising efforts are continuing. The remaining funding requires approval from the Iowa Legislature. Construction will begin once all funding is completed.