Trustees give go-ahead to engineering complex

May 12, 2002

The Duke University Board of Trustees on Saturday gave the go-ahead to construct a $97 million West Campus building complex that will more than double the Pratt School of Engineering's teaching and laboratory space.

The trustees also gave preliminary approval for three other major projects on campus -- a new multidisciplinary sciences center; the addition of a two-story building at the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy and the addition of 100 guest rooms and suites at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club.

The 320,000-square-foot structure for the Pratt School, tentatively called the Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences, consists of west and east wings joined by a central court. It will be located at the north end of what is now the Divinity School parking lot and to the west of the lot. A portion of Science Drive will be closed and the area between Hudson Hall and the new building will form a pedestrian plaza.

The complex's west wing will house the Pratt School's new Fitzpatrick Center for Photonics and Communications Systems, and the larger east wing will house new interdisciplinary initiatives in biomedical engineering and materials sciences. About 45,000 square feet will be occupied by the School of Medicine, which is contributing to the construction cost.

The center, expected to be completed in August 2004, will feature undergraduate teaching and project labs, state-of-the-art research facilities and a variety of spaces where faculty and students can both formally meet and informally interact.

The trustees on Saturday also gave preliminary approval for three other projects, including an $80 million multidisciplinary sciences center.

The board's action came two days after university officials announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is giving Duke $30 million to support the new sciences facility, which is expected to be named the French Sciences Center in honor of Melinda French Gates's family. (See

The new sciences center is expected to house faculty from the departments of biology, chemistry, physics and biological anthropology and anatomy, and is designed to encourage collaborative teaching and research programs and greater interaction between and among faculty and students.

The center will feature state-of-the-art research and teaching laboratories that will be used for research and for training students in such emerging fields as genomics, biological chemistry, physical biology and bioinformatics. The new center is scheduled to be located on Science Drive and may link to Biological Sciences, Math/Physics and the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL).

The new Sanford Institute building would be located behind the current structure at the corner of Science Drive and Towerview Road. The existing courtyard would separate the two buildings.

Currently, the Sanford Institute is at full capacity and leases about 7,500 gross square feet off campus. The new $12 million, two-story building would double the current usable square footage, from 27,000 to 54,000 square feet, and would include office space, classrooms and a media/teleconference center. Groundbreaking could occur as early as next spring.

In addition to creating approximately 100 more guest rooms and suites, the Washington Duke Inn expansion also would provide additional space for conference facilities, meeting space, kitchen, laundry and service facilities and the renovation of existing areas to create a permanent business center, fitness center, indoor swimming pool and expansion of the lobby. The estimated cost of the project is $25-$30 million, and is expected to be paid for through increased revenue.