Construction of the 104,000 square-foot Computer Science and
Engineering building officially began Friday with a groundbreaking
ceremony at the site, located next to the Herbert H. Dow
Building.

Mira Levitan
Engineering Dean Steven Director speaks before the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Computer Science and Engineering Building to be located on North Campus. (TONY DING/Daily)

The $40-million price tag may raise some eyebrows with students
whose tuition never seems to stop increasing, but David Munson,
chair of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
department, said the funds are coming entirely from private
donors.

“The state is not spending that money,” Munson said.
“We’re very sensitive to the fact that budgets are
extremely tight. In fact, the budget in my department is extremely
tight and it’ll be tighter this next year.”

Munson added that alumni donate more often for long-term
projects than to cover general operating costs.

“Generally the alumni aren’t going to give you money
to support your continuing program … but they do give us
money for special things,” he said

One such alumnus, Kevin O’Connor, chairman of DoubleClick
Inc., said he gave $5,000,000 to support the construction because
the University has done a decent, but not exceptional job with its
computer science program and needs the new facility to continue
growing.

He added that computer science is a continuously evolving field
that, with the right support, the University can be at the
forefront of.

“If you asked me today, ‘20 years from now,
what’s it going to look like?’ I have no idea, but
there are two things that I can tell you with certainty. One is
that computers and machines will come to play an increasing role in
our life, and the second one is that many of the innovations will
come from the University of Michigan Computer Science
Building,” he said.

O’Connor, who began DoubleClick in his basement, also said
that he feels it is important for alumni to support their
University’s growth, and that he is personally grateful to
the University for his own prosperity.

“I’ve met with a lot of success in my life and a lot
of it is because of the people I met here and what they taught
me,” he said.

The facility, which is expected to be completed in 2006, will
feature a design that is intended to promote a sense of community
for the College of Engineering.

“The space generated between our building and the Dow
Building will become a landmark exterior space,” said David
Dow, an architect with Diamond and Schmitt, the Toronto-based firm
that designed the building.

Munson said the new facility will feature a great deal of
classroom space and labs for students, as well as support a new
research project called Location-Aware Computing. The new
technology uses sensors to identify the locations and identities of
specific people in a given area.

“It’s not that anybody here wants to spy on students
and faculty and know where they are, it’s a research project
to figure out how you could use this (technology),” he
said.

“Suppose you walk into a room and the room knows who you
are, so it adjusts the lighting and temperature just the way you
want it.”

Munson added that pains were taken to ensure that the building
will use sunlight for much of its illumination.

“It’s going to be very light and very bright inside.
There’s a lot of glass, a lot of skylights and even a lot of
interior walls that are made out of (translucent glass).
There’s going to be a lot of natural light throughout the
building, and I think that in a long Michigan winter, it’s
going to feel very good.”

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