artists rendering of proposed engineering classroom building

Master Plan Implementation FAQs

What is the master plan for the Penn State College of Engineering?

In March 2018, Penn State engaged a team led by Boston-based architectural firm Payette to develop a Master Facilities Plan for the College of Engineering. The main goal of this effort was to develop a plan and framework for necessary College of Engineering capital projects spanning two funding cycles: 2018-2023 and 2023-2028.

Why is the master plan and its implementation necessary?

Increases in engineering enrollment — both historic and projected — create a corresponding demand for growth in physical space. To support the realization of the College of Engineering’s academic vision, modernization and an increase in the quality of physical space is also necessary. The master plan and its implementation will create a central area for College of Engineering students, faculty, and staff to collaborate in a more effective and efficient manner.

  • With about 12,000 students, the College of Engineering is among the largest in the nation. Demand for undergraduate programs hosted at Penn State’s University Park campus continues to increase. Engineering continues to be the institution’s most requested major.
  • Since 2008, the undergraduate student population in engineering has increased by 43%, the graduate student population by 7%. Accelerated growth of the graduate student population, in particular, is targeted in the coming years.
  • Since 2008, the size of the tenure-track faculty population has grown by 20%.
  • In fiscal year 2018-19, the College of Engineering had a 14% increase in research funding, bringing its total research expenditures to $149 million.
  • The master plan will allow the College of Engineering to create strong departmental homes for the administration of the departments while strengthening the collaboration and interdisciplinary exchange between departments and researchers by co-locating researchers in shared facilities housing leading edge technologies and tools.
  • Through the master plan, the College of Engineering is also aligning its strategic initiatives with the Penn State’s goals. For example, with the new facilities, the college will be positioned to engage in collaborative research to advance engineering in a broad range of areas, such as energy and biodevices, to elevate the University as a whole. The ultimate goal is to meet the challenges of the 21st century while also developing the tools to anticipate and navigate future societal needs.

Beyond additional space for education, research, and co-curricular activities, what are expected benefits of the master plan implementation?

The college’s facilities have not kept pace with changes in approach to education, technology advancements, and the demands of modern, collaborative research. The master plan implementation will result in:

  • Flexible classrooms and multi-use design studios
  • Integrated, multidisciplinary research labs with state-of-the-art technology, benefitting multiple engineering disciplines
  • A significant multipurpose “high-bay” research space that accommodates large equipment
  • A state-of-the-art student maker space for all engineering students: An expanded Learning Factory, now providing infrastructure and experiences for all engineering disciplines, including the Factory for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) lab and manufacturing
  • A collaborative student work and study space: The Knowledge Commons
  • Thematic spaces that allow for exploration of distinct engineering challenges from multiple perspectives
  • The centralization of labs and buildings that are currently spread across the entire campus, resulting in greater collaboration among departments, students, faculty, and staff

Master plan implementation will help better prepare the college’s students to be world-class engineering leaders who are able to confront the engineering demands of the modern world. It will enable the college to recruit and retain the top engineering faculty in the world.

What is the proposed implementation timeline of the master plan?

The plan spans two five-year funding cycles (Phase 1: 2018-2023 and Phase 2: 2023-2028):

  • Phase 1 (2018-2023) includes construction of the West 1 and West 2 Buildings on the re-imagined West Campus area of the Penn State University Park campus, to the west of North Atherton Street. Contingent upon final approval by the Penn State Board of Trustees, construction is expected to begin in October 2020. Phase 1 will also include demolition of Hammond Building and Kunkle Lounge, Engineering Units A, B, C, and the north and south wings of Sackett. The north wing of Sackett will be replaced by a new addition and the core of Sackett will be renovated.
  • Phase 2 (2023-2028) consists of construction of a third building on West Campus, two buildings on the footprint of the previously demolished Hammond, and the addition of a south wing of Sackett.

Detailed information regarding the project timeline can be found in Master Plan – Implementation, pages 40-43.

How much will the master plan implementation cost?

The estimated project cost for Phase 1 is $370 million and the estimated project cost for Phase 2 is $479 million. Detailed estimates for Phases 1 and 2 can be found in Master Plan – Implementation, pages 36-39.

How will the master plan implementation be funded?

Though final costs will not be determined until the design phase is complete and construction is approved by the Board of Trustees, plans call for Penn State to fund much of the project as part of its current capital plan, with additional funding comprising capital construction funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and philanthropy.

With the University reducing budgets in the interest of maintaining access to and affordability of a Penn State education, how does it justify the proposed spending on these projects over the course of the next decade?

These new facilities are critical to Penn State’s ability to maintain and strengthen its standing in a highly competitive landscape, in order to attract the best students and faculty from across Pennsylvania and globally; to prepare students for career success; and to support its position as one of the world’s premier research institutions.

What aspects of the master plan have been approved by the Penn State Board of Trustees?

In February 2019, the Board of Trustees Committee on Finance, Business, and Capital Planning approved the appointment of Payette as the architect of two new research and teaching buildings on West Campus. The final design plan for the first building is expected to go to the Board of Trustees for review in fall 2020, with Board review of the design for the second building expected in spring 2021.

What will be the impact to faculty, staff, and students during master plan implementation?

As new buildings are completed and others demolished or renovated, the locations of departments and programs in the college will shift. Phase 1 includes relocating departments and programs currently residing in Hammond; Engineering Units A, B, C; and Sackett to the newly constructed West 1 and West 2 Buildings. These include:

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Architectural Engineering
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • School of Engineering, Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP)
  • Advising, Career Services, Equity and Inclusion
  • Engineering Library
  • Engineering Maker Spaces
  • 10 General Purpose Classrooms

Other programs and departments currently occupying Hammond, Engineering Units, and Sackett will either backfill existing buildings or occupy spaces in buildings currently under renovation or construction. The Office of Physical Plant Shop, currently in Engineering Unit B, will move to the Steam Plant Addition.

Detailed information regarding the reassignment of faculty, staff, and students can be found in Master Plan – Implementation, pages 45-49.

With the pivot to online education, does it really make sense to build new physical space?

With the increasing demand for hands-on, “real-world” experience in order to meet industry’s expectations, it is crucial that students in the College of Engineering are provided with facilities that will prepare them to enter the workforce.