New digs for engineering studentsGround broken for new UTPB building

State legislators and dignitaries from around the area celebrated the groundbreaking of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin’s new engineering building, which will be at the CEED complex between Midland and Odessa.
Due to high winds, the ceremony was indoors at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center and those turning shovels placed them in troughs of sand. The engineering building was included in House Bill 100, approved by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2015. The project was added to the UT System Board of Regents’ capital improvement program in August of that year and is funded from $48 million in tuition revenue bonds and $4 million in Permanent University funds for a total project cost of $52 million, a news release said.
Designed by Stantec Architecture of Plano and JSA Architects of Odessa, the building will contain 105,000 gross square feet and be three stories tall. The first two floors of the new building will include six classrooms, a 100-seat lecture hall, 22 faculty offices and a dean’s suite.
It also will feature instructional labs for the mechanical, petroleum and aerospace engineering programs and research labs for faculty and graduate research, the release said. The third floor of the structure will await future expansion of engineering disciplines such as chemical and/or electrical engineering, the release said.
The contractor is Adolfson & Peterson Construction. Construction is expected to start in late April and is projected to conclude in April 2019. The building should be ready for occupancy for the 2019 fall semester.
The building’s design can accommodate different classroom settings and includes conference areas and several student spaces distributed throughout the structure to encourage student and faculty collaboration. The release stated other amenities include a small food prep area, computer resource room, a visualization lab and lab support spaces.
UTPB currently has mechanical and petroleum engineering. Aeronautical and nuclear engineering are concentrations in mechanical engineering, President David Watts said.
Asked how he felt getting to this point, Watts said, “Halejuah!”
He said it has been a long haul, but a successful one. “That’s the main thing,” Watts said.
Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, said the groundbreaking was an opportunity to celebrate UTPB’s growth and its “undeniably bright future as an institution of higher learning.
“But in the midst of this celebration, let’s not forget what this new engineering building is going to mean in very practical terms,” Landgraf said. “Because of this building that we’re breaking ground on today, the best and the brightest kids from Odessa, from Midland, from Andrews, from all across the Permian Basin kids who have dreams as big as anyone … can stay right here at home in the Permian Basin and earn a first-class engineering education in a world-class facility.”
“But by the same token, the best and the brightest students from all across Texas, and even all across the nation, will see this building and see the vast oilfields that surround it and they will know more than ever that UTPB is the place to be if you want to be an engineer in or around the oil patch …,” Landgraf added.
State Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, a former speaker of the Texas House, said work on the engineering building began eight years ago and was completed during the 2015 legislative session. Craddick said the engineering program will give UTPB a whole new aspect and having the building between Odessa and Midland was going to be a plus.
“It really is satisfying,” Craddick said. “I began to wonder if we were going to get it done. We worked on it for quite a while. We passed the bill and then the bill didn’t get passed. We put it in last session and it passed. I’m glad we’re getting started on it and we’re going to have it done really fast.”
Texas Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, said it is not only growing, but it is as successful as any start-up program anywhere in the state. He said the vision for the new engineering building came from the two communities and Watts.
“It’s a great testimony to the vision and the university being in the right place at the right time. To be able to work on something like that, to make a productive vision reality, a vision of communities and individuals with extraordinary capabilities, it’s one of the highest callings for any legislative body,” Seliger said.
Professor Abdallah Harouaka and Associate Professor Ahmed Kamel said the program started with 17 students and now has more than 300.
“We’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time,” Harouaka said.
“… The program is over 300 students right now and probably by the time they finish constructing this building, we’ll need another building.”
Associate Professor Essam Ibrahim said he is currently in the CEED building and they need new quarters, plus there has been demand for a graduate program.