August 5, 2011 — Technology that could transform life as we know it and improve the human condition – that's the vision behind the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science's new Rice Hall Information Technology Engineering Building. The building will open at the beginning of the fall semester for classes.
The state-of-the-art space will allow faculty and students to conduct research and learn in such areas as high-performance computing, computer visualization, computer security, energy conservation, wireless communications, telemedicine, virtual reality, distributed multimedia and distance learning.
"This building is a huge step forward for the Engineering School," said Dean James H. Aylor at Rice Hall's groundbreaking in April 2009. "With labs and study areas designed for collaborative research, and facilities to enhance our distance-education programs, this building will benefit the Engineering School, the University and citizens of the commonwealth for years to come."
The creation of Rice Hall was made possible by a lead gift of $10 million from Paul and Gina Rice, through the Rice Family Foundation.
On the Rice Hall website, Paul Rice, a 1975 electrical engineering alumnus, wrote: "The real promise of what will happen here is the 21st-century extension of the Academical Village and what will be made possible by the technologies that are used, developed and explored in these places. The village won't simply exist then in these buildings or on this campus, but across the state, across the nation and globe. We have only really begun to understand the way in which these technologies can enhance human performance and accomplishment and how they can improve the human condition."
Additional funding for the $65.5 million Rice Hall project came from U.Va., the state and from other U.Va. alumni and friends.
The building was designed by Bohlin Cynwinski Jackson and is being constructed by W.M. Jordan Company.
Located at the corner of Whitehead and Stadium roads behind Olsson Hall, Rice Hall consists of six stories covering 100,000 square feet. It is designed to be Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design-certified, commonly known as LEED. It also will be at the forefront of air and power technology, noted senior project manager Craig Hilten of Facilities Management.
Rice Hall's "chilled beams" use water instead of air to remove heat from rooms – a new technology for University facilities. With sophisticated technologies for heating, cooling and lighting, and including energy recovery systems, Rice Hall also will function as a living laboratory on energy use.
When it opens, students and faculty going about their daily routines in the building will help researchers learn how to optimize the latest energy technologies for large buildings. The building's instrumentation systems will collect data that will allow managers to optimize its energy consumption. The research also could inform behaviors, such as closing doors or powering down equipment to help reduce energy consumption.
Both undergraduate and graduate students will benefit from specialized lab spaces on all six floors. The largest is the Design Laboratory, located on the first floor, where Introduction to Engineering classes will be taught. With folding doors, it opens and connects to the courtyard, providing space for lab work that must be completed outside.
Also, space in the basement provides the appropriate environment for lab procedures that require specialized lighting. They include the Light Measurement Laboratory and the Visualization Lab. The floors, ceilings and walls are black, reducing stray light and enhancing image presentation.
Equipped with enhanced audio and video capabilities, Rice Hall also supports the Engineering School's distance-learning initiatives and teleconferencing – especially benefitting the PRODUCED in Virginia engineering program, in which students earn a four-year engineering degree from U.Va. while attending local community colleges.
Other features of Rice Hall include a 150-seat lecture hall, a cyber cafe, an Einstein's Bagels eatery and a lobby – all located on the first floor.
Rice Hall will be formally dedicated Nov. 18.