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 "Engineering On Display"

Civil Engineering Scupper
Atop the Swenson Civil Engineering building on the UMD campus, Cyprus wood roof scuppers recycle run-off.

UMD Opens $15 Million High-Tech Civil Engineering Building

LEED Certified GOLD Award Building

UMD held grand opening ceremonies June 28 for the spectacular $15 million Swenson Civil Engineering building located on the North East corner of the campus just off St Marie Street. The state-of-the-art teaching/training center will house the new Bachelor of Science degree program in Civil Engineering which admitted its first freshman students in the fall of 2008--and will graduate its first class in the spring of 2012. The state-of-the-art structure is the 12th new building and/or major addition constructed on the UMD campus since 2000.

UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin said, "The enormous potential of UMD’s new Civil Engineering program, along with this magnificent new building designed to house it, cannot be overestimated. The demand for civil engineers in our area and our state is strong and growing stronger. And the field of Civil Engineering, with its emphasis on sustainability and environmental quality, will help lead our state, as well as our nation and our world, into a cleaner, safer 21st century."

The 34,000 gross square foot, two-story building adjoins Voss Kovach Hall (home of the Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Engineering programs) and houses sophisticated, specialized teaching and research laboratories as well as classrooms, computer labs, and administrative offices. All students will be trained on the latest computer software that is currently being used in industry today.

Civil Engineering Structures Lab
The structures lab showcases structural engineering with two 15-ton hydraulic cranes.
Civil Engineering Exterior
Exterior of the structures lab showing the hanger bi-fold door beginning to open. The metal struts are the supports that are used in tilt-up precast wall construction -- they've been left in as a teaching tool and architectural feature.

Of the six total laboratories, two are exceptionally large--reaching two-stories high with full glass walls providing "Engineering on Display" from the hallways as well as the outside. These "mega labs" will showcase to all viewers (students, the UMD community, and visitors) the work that civil engineers actually do.

One of these "mega labs" features a large flume (water flow channel) and rainfall demonstration table. The building itself also provides education in water engineering: The roof scuppers (made of the recycled wood of pickle barrels from a factory in Green Bay, Wisconsin) runoff into rings containing stone to filter water before it is routed back through the storm water system.

The second "mega lab" showcases structural engineering with two 15-ton hydraulic cranes able to lift large sections of concrete and other structural elements for evaluation and strength testing. All six laboratories will provide essential hands-on student learning experience which is the focus and purpose of the building's state-of-the-art design.

The building has earned the LEED Certified GOLD Award. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system established by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certification is a rigorous process that evaluates the environmental sustainability of building design, construction and operation.

The UMD campus boasts three other LEED Certified buildings: (1) the Labovitz School of Business & Economics (GOLD-and the first new higher education building in the state of Minnesota to be LEED Certified) (2) the Life Science Building (SILVER), and (3) the Bagley Classroom (PLATINUM).

Carol Ross Barney of Ross Barney Associates of Chicago was the design architect. Duluth architectural firm SJA was the lead architect for the project. The two firms also collaborated on the $33 million UMD James I. Swenson Science Building opened in September 2005.

Funding for the building was provided by the Minnesota Legislature which approved a $10 million capital bonding request in 2008. UMD benefactor and 1959 graduate, James I. Swenson (Swenson Family Foundation) donated $3 million. An additional $2 million was provided by university funds.


According to Swenson College of Science and Engineering Dean James P. Riehl, the development of the Civil Engineering Program at UMD is in direct response to engineering personnel needs expressed by the private and public sectors in our region, and the career aspirations of prospective students and their parents. Areas of focus were determined after consultation with engineering and manufacturing firms in Duluth and Greater Northeastern Minnesota.

The new UMD Civil Engineering Program will emphasize the fields of:

* Water resource engineering
* Transportation engineering
* Structural engineering
* Geotechnical engineering (including mining)

"We intend to graduate civil engineers who have the skills and experience that employers are seeking, and who are prepared to meet the future needs of regional and statewide government agencies and industrial firms," said Dean Riehl. "Our students will be poised to contribute to the development of sustainable solutions to the pressing problems that impact our communities."

Total Engineering Program enrollment at UMD is currently more than 1,000 students, having grown from 400 students in the year 2000. Now in its third year, the Civil Engineering program has 170 students.

The total curriculum consists of five UMD Engineering Departments:

· Chemical Engineering

· Electrical and Computer Engineering

· Industrial Engineering

· Mechanical Engineering

· Civil Engineering

Dr. Andrea Schokker is a professor and department head. Professor Schokker comes from Penn State University where she was Associate Head of Civil Engineering and was in charge of undergraduate curriculum. She has a national reputation in the field of Civil Engineering with expertise in concrete and structures. She is on the board of directors at the American Concrete Institute and is an active member of multiple technical committees including chair of Sustainability and past chair of Prestressed Concrete. Dr. Schokker's teaching interests include Structural Analysis, Prestressed Concrete Design, Sustainable Design and Bridge Design. She is a LEED Accredited professional.

This fall semester, the Department of Civil Engineering will have eight full-time faculty members.


Written by Susan Beasy Latto

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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Last modified on 04/22/11 02:34 PM
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