The University of Rhode Island’s College of Engineering is starting this week on the demolition and construction of a new engineering building that will replace Crawford, Gilbreth, Kelly, and Wales Halls.

This project gained its funds in part from the state voting “yes” on question four in last November’s election which gave the college $45.5 million in bonds for this construction.

“It’s going to be a very exciting time for the college of engineering,” said Paul DePace, director of URI capital projects.

The demolition is set to begin within the next week. We hired the most reputable contractors to start this project. Part one, the relocation of the college of engineering, is almost complete. Those students, classes and research have been moved into Pastore, Pastore Annex, Morrill and the Schneider Electric Plant in South Kingstown.

“We were really challenged to find spaces for engineering,” said DePace. “The idea came across us that there was space available for leasing at the Schneider Electric Plant… not only is that good leased space to solve our problem but it’s also a great partnership with Schneider Electric who is an employer of a number of our graduate engineers.”

The next part of the project is also set to start sometime this week. Due to different building regulations during the late 1950s and early 60s when most of the engineering buildings were built, they had SERS come out and check for asbestos, and they will need to remove the asbestos still in the buildings. Once that is done, DePace says, the demolition will begin.

DePace assures that the new construction will “absolutely” stay with the green, environmentally friendly initiative on campus. “Our mandate in our design is that all of our buildings will attain the goal of LEED silver [Leadership, Engineering and Design],” he said. The LEED standard is a measure of “greenness.”

Like many other buildings on campus, DePace said that the new engineering building will have many windows to allow for natural light. As far as layout goes, the building will essentially be two smaller buildings connected by a 160 foot, three story high bridge with mostly glass on the south facing wall. “[It will be a] very dramatic building, very different from what’s on campus,” said DePace.

Kirk, one of the only engineering buildings that will not be demolished, will undergo renovations within the next few weeks.  “We are renovating Kirk to accept certain laboratories,” said DePace. “Originally we thought we would move those laborites to a different location and then renovate the space… but it was more expeditious to renovate the spaces [now] and move people into it [as quick as possible].”

DePace stresses that the mission of engineering is in both teaching and research. The research side has especially gone into a lot of consideration for the designs of the new engineering building. DePace says that there will be a large amount of research space and it will be very flexible to allow for multiple research projects to function throughout the years.

“This building will be a great opportunity for researchers to put forward programs, look for funding and carry out the research. That’s one of the prime goals of this project,” said DePace.

While the demolition and construction will happen very close to the busy Upper College Road, DePace explains that they do not at this point intend to impair Upper College Road. East Alumni Avenue, which runs between the Engineering Complex and the Mallon Center, has been closed off now and will continue to stay closed.