Engineering research facility considered a step toward top-20 status

People watched on Tuesday as the first dirt was moved for the new engineering building that will be built in the E-lot on Rose Street.  Photo by Britney McIntosh| Staff

People watched on Tuesday as the first dirt was moved for the new engineering building that will be built in the E-lot on Rose Street. Photo by Britney McIntosh| Staff

By Tom Shearman

UK’s new $18.6 million engineering research facility represents the start of a “high-tech business corridor between Lexington and the University of Kentucky,” said President Lee Todd.

Todd made this comment during a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for the Davis Marksbury Building, which represents the second of four phases in developing UK’s ‘Digital Village.’

Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry said he was excited the new research facility is close to the downtown area.

“(The building) is a step toward UK reaching its top-20 status as a research institution,” Newberry said.

The new research facility will house the UK Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science.

Funding for the building was announced last December with the Marksbury Family Foundation, created by civil engineering alumnus Davis Marksbury and wife, Beverly, providing $6 million.

An additional $3.6 million came from private donors, while Kentucky’s Research Challenge Trust Fund provided the remaining $9.3 million, according to a UK news release.

At the ceremony, Marksbury said innovation was doubling in speed and the future will be a blur of change.

“Innovation is our only economically sustainable advantage,” Marksbury said.  “I’m not sure what we’re going to invent in the new building, but I can’t wait to find out.”

Computer science sophomore Tony Fisher said the new building will be “a place where all the heroes can go to hang out.”

“I’m humbled,” Fisher said.  “I wonder if I’ll ever achieve what a lot of these people have achieved.”

The Digital Village development in the Maxwell and Rose street area will eventually consist of four high-tech buildings, which Todd believes “will see great ideas spawned” and “help Kentucky companies stay in Kentucky.”

College of Engineering Dean Thomas Lester said the college is now looking for funding for the third and fourth phases of the Digital Village.

These phases would see the development of labs that would “embrace oral and written communication and digital communication (and) benefit the entire university,” Lester said.

The Davis Marksbury Building will also be the first on campus to receive certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.

“This is a statement by the university that it takes sustainability seriously,” Lester said.
Computer engineering freshman Fred Kantner said the LEED certification was significant.

“It’s always important to be up to date with advancements,” Kantner said.  “It proves that in Kentucky, we can keep up (with schools on the West Coast and in the North East).”

Construction of the Davis Marksbury Building is expected to be completed by early 2011.

“I feel very fortunate I’ll get to see it completed,” said computer science freshman Shaden Smith.  “The building is a huge step towards becoming a top-20 research university, and to help the university in general, not just the engineering department.”