S.D. House approves $4.85 million expansion to engineering building


Anne Virginia Koepp

The South Dakota House of Representatives passed House Bill 1026 on Feb. 17, moving the Phase II expansion on the new Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building one step closer to reality.

The Bill allows “the Board of Regents to construct Phase II of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building on the campus of South Dakota State University, to accept donations for such purpose, to acquire land incidental thereto, and to make appropriations therefor.”

House Bill 1026 has been presented to the Senate and referred to the Senate Appropriations committee. The bill is scheduled for hearing on Feb. 24.

A 29,000-square-foot wing will be added to the already 43,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building completed last summer on the south side of the SDSU campus. Work is set to begin this year and will include a new photovoltaic laboratory in the existing building.

Estimated project expenses will be approximately $4.85 million, including $450,000 allocated for the photovoltaic, or solar cell, cleanroom.

No general fund dollars will be used for the upcoming project.

“Private donors made pledges for construction and site preparation,” said Bob Otterson, executive assistant to the SDSU president.

Dean of Engineering, Lewis Brown, said the Phase II wing will mirror the existing wing. The new expansion will add four floors – two dedicated to electrical engineering and computer science and two to the physics department. The Physics Department will be moving from its old location in Crothers Engineering Hall.

Dennis Helder, department head for electrical engineering and computer science, said there is a “very critical space shortage in the College of Engineering.”

Phase II will add the needed laboratory space for students, including optics and electrical energy research space.

The move of the Physics Department will allow for the growth and expansion of the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Departments into the open space in Crothers Engineering Hall.

“The Civil and Mechanical Engineering Departments were very compressed in Crothers,” said Helder. The expansion adds needed footage for students and faculty.

“Studies for recruiting showed that facilities for the academic major played a large role in student’s decision to attend a university,” Brown said. “While the building was essentially new, there was a shortfall on educational and research space.”

Phase II expansion has been planned since the beginning of the initial construction. Instead of waiting to raise funds for the entire project, it was broken into two phases to initiate ground-breaking quickly, said Brown.

Originally built in 1954 as a residence hall, Harding Hall has become a cramped space for parts of the mathematical and engineering departments.

Harding Hall, currently home to the Engineering Resource Center, may eventually go offline after the Phase II expansion. However, it is not written within House Bill 1026.

“Phase II is one factor,” said Otterson. “There may be a correlation to Harding Hall going offline after the phase II project goes online.”

Otterson said an estimated completion date for the Phase II expansion is a bit premature since construction has not yet initiated.

The expansion is expected to raze the Alpha Xi Delta sorority house at the corner of Eighth Street and 13th Avenue.

Phase I was completed in May 2009 and has been welcomed by students eagerly.

“It has modern architecture and a bunch of computer labs now. It’s nice to have more labs,” said Justin Fox, a sophomore computer science major from Rapid City.

“We’ve seen more smiles on student’s faces in the new building and labs than we’ve ever seen before,” said Helder. “The new building creates an optimal learning experience for students.”