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Sense of Place

Science and Engineering Hall at The George Washington University

500,000-square-foot facility provides eight floors of laboratory space for academics and research
University Business, August 2015
  • Science and Engineering Hall at The George Washington University is the largest academic building dedicated to these fields in the nation’s capital.
  • Multiple formal and informal gathering spaces, aimed at fostering engagement and extending learning that begins in classrooms and labs, are part of the building’s design.

At 500,000 square feet, the new Science and Engineering Hall at The George Washington University is the largest academic building dedicated to these fields in the nation’s capital.

And it serves thousands of students and roughly 140 faculty members in the heart of the Foggy Bottom campus. The building, known on campus as the SEH, provides eight floors of laboratory space to support both academics and research.

Challenge

The university’s science and engineering facilities had grown dated. “We haven’t had a new lab building at the downtown campus for about 40 years and the fields that need them had been suffering as a result,” says Can Korman, associate dean of research and graduate studies.

In 2007, the university and then-incoming President Steve Knapp made research and technology a new strategic priority, Korman says. That helped fuel support for a new building. In fact, during the last decade, the university’s research funding has grown 80 percent, increasing the need for modern labs.

Solution

Though large in size, many of the Science and Engineering Hall’s exterior and classroom walls are glass, bringing in natural light and creating an open feel. “There’s a lot of outside visibility for such a large building,” he says. “I also love that I can see what’s going on the in the labs right when I walk off the elevator.”

Students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences will study and work in a variety of facilities on the two floors below grade and six floors above, including a nanofabrication lab and an imaging suite.

In the three-story “high bay,” students will test how to make buildings and bridges more earthquake-resistant.

The seventh and eighth floors will house the Milken Institute School of Public Health and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. A greenhouse will be added to the roof when that stage of the project is completed in 2016, Korman says.

Another highlight is the “teaching tower,” a five-story stack of 1,000-square-foot labs in the center of the building. Software engineering, circuitry and robotics, among other subjects, will be taught in the labs, which are enclosed by glass on three sides.

“We’re expected to have record numbers of undergraduate and graduate students in these fields next year, and we believe that can be attributed to this new building,” Korman says. “We’re even calling it the SEH effect.”

  • COMPLETED: March 2015
  • COST: $275 million
  • PROJECT TEAM: Ballinger (Philadelphia), architect

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