Legislature funds new engineering building

The capital budget includes $51 million for a new building create some much-needed space for engineering, computer science and energy programs
Window magazine staff

The Washington State Legislature’s 2021-‘23 capital budget includes $51 million to construct a new building at Western to create some much-needed space for engineering, computer science and energy programs.

The 60,000-square-foot building, known as Kaiser Borsari Hall, will also be funded with $20 million in donations, making it Western’s first building funded through a combination of both public and private funding. It will be located next to the Communications Facility, which will also be renovated as part of the project, with a skybridge connecting the two.

The state previously earmarked $2 million for planning and design, bringing the state’s investment to $53 million. Planned for completion in 2024, Kaiser Borsari Hall will create more space for interdisciplinary collaboration and experiential projects in partnership with industry, allowing students to solve real-world problems. The expansion of the programs housed within the space will also help feed the nation’s growing demand for employees educated in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The need for highly trained graduates in STEM fields is particularly acute in Washington, but both the engineering and computer science programs are so full at Western they’re turning away promising students.

With the new capacity, Western will nearly triple the number of graduates per year in electrical engineering, up from about 36 per year now. And computer science graduates will increase from 150 now to about 220. The new building will also provide space for Western’s growing energy studies programs.

The new building will allow for an increase in diversity, equity, and inclusiveness through a design informed by diverse users and which responds to the needs for both cultural and physical accessibility. More space for collaborative projects means more opportunities for hands-on, interdisciplinary projects and more interaction with faculty to prepare the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers.

Internationally acclaimed sustainable design expert Jason F. McLennan is guiding the net-zero energy/zero carbon design strategy for Kaiser Borsari Hall, which will exceed LEED standards for energy use, carbon, and other environmental indicators, and will pursue certification through the International Living Future Institute.

When complete, Kaiser Borsari Hall will be the only carbon-neutral academic facility in the region, among a handful in the nation, and will significantly advance Western’s vision to become the region’s first carbon-neutral university campus.