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Fitts-Woolard Hall: One Year Later

Fitts-Woolard Hall rendering

Since it opened in 2013, the James B. Hunt, Jr. Library has stood out on NC State’s Centennial Campus for its modern look, sustainability and integration of technology.

Soon, it will be joined by another iconic structure.

Fitts-Woolard Hall, the newest engineering building on Centennial, will open its doors in summer 2020. This landmark facility, which will stand next to Hunt Library just south of the three existing engineering buildings on Centennial, will put some of the College’s most impactful research on display and become a flow-through point for campus foot traffic. With its own unique design and large footprint, Fitts-Woolard Hall will stand as an impressive complement to the library.

“It will catch your eye and keep it,” said Doug Morton, NC State’s associate vice chancellor for facilities. “You will be looking not only at the library next door, you’ll be looking at Fitts-Woolard Hall. It will be a unique structure on this campus.”

The future home of the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering (CCEE); the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE); and the dean’s administrative offices, is another important step toward unification of the College of Engineering on Centennial.

It also represents a first-of-its-kind infrastructure project for NC State, using a public-private partnership to fund the construction of an academic building.

The $154 million project received $75 million from the voters of North Carolina through a 2016 bond referendum. The NC Legislature provided $2 million, and the University is providing $17 million, with the College pledging to fund the remaining $60 million from private commitments.

Thanks to generous commitments from more than 300 alumni donors and a $25 million naming gift from industrial engineering graduates Edward P. Fitts and Edgar S. Woolard, the College stands at $48 million of its $60 million goal.

Reaching that fundraising goal is vital to help the College reach its full potential as the top public college of engineering in the country and one of the world’s preeminent colleges of engineering.

Engineering on display

Sitting at the southwest corner of a grassy oval ringed by Engineering Buildings I, II and III, Fitts-Woolard Hall will serve as a connection for students and faculty and staff members walking to and from the Oval, especially on rainy days.

So, designer Clark Nexsen built in broad passageways and monumental staircases to handle the crowds. While they are passing through, visitors will have a chance to take in the work going on in some of the most impactful labs in CCEE and ISE. This “engineering on display” concept will celebrate the accomplishments and aspirations of the College and the two departments.

CCEE’s asphalt, structural testing, materials and hydraulics labs and ISE’s advanced manufacturing and brain computer interface labs will be located on the first two floors in open, airy spaces with floor-to-ceiling glass walls that will allow passersby to take in the work going on inside.

Outside, stormwater runoff and building condensate will be filtered through a series of step pools that will eventually lead to nearby Lake Raleigh.

Clark Nexsen designed a structure with open frame systems that will allow lab and teaching spaces to be adjusted based on faculty members’ needs over the coming decades. Mann and Daniels Halls, the current homes of CCEE and ISE, respectively, are both more than 50 years old and are using spaces for laboratories that were not originally designed for that purpose.

“We’re building Fitts-Woolard Hall so that the faculty members in those two departments will have exactly the spaces they need for those labs to be successful,” said Cameron Smith, senior director of the University’s Capital Project Management Department.

Leaving a legacy

Alumni who have benefitted from their education in the College of Engineering at NC State have a chance to pass that opportunity to future students and leave a mark on this important building through a number of naming opportunities.

The College, along with Clark Nexsen and construction manager Skanska, celebrated progress on Fitts-Woolard Hall in December with a topping-off ceremony that marked the placement of the highest steel beam in the building’s framework. Meanwhile, the NC State Engineering Foundation is hosting a series of information sessions on campus and in cities around North Carolina. Hard-hat tours of the building site will begin this fall.

With $12 million in commitments needed to help finance construction, the College needs many more of its graduates in all disciplines to step up and support the effort. Reaching its fundraising goal will help the College avoid having to assume debt payments that would take away from scholarships and programs that benefit students and faculty members.

“Fitts-Woolard Hall embodies the strengths of the College of Engineering and is a crucial step in the achievement of our goals and full potential,” said Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, dean of the College. “Alumni who support this effort will truly be making an investment that will benefit the University and the state of North Carolina for generations to come.”

This story originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2019 NC State Engineering magazine (PDF, 13.7MB).