New MSU STEM building now ready for move-in preparation
March 1, 2021
With an expected opening date of fall 2021, MSU’s STEM Teaching and Learning Facility building is nearing the end of a journey that started decades ago with the Shaw Lane Power Plant.
Decommissioned in the 1960s, the Shaw Lane plant has occupied a uniquely central space of the East Lansing campus, adjacent to both Wells Hall and Spartan Stadium. Its location interested numerous colleges and units over the years, but the cost to safely deconstruct or refurbish the building was never economically feasible.
“The old power plant was essentially abandoned in the mid-1960s,” said John LeFevre, who leads IPF Planning, Design and Construction. “While the structure was continuously maintained, the building sat stagnant until the late 2010s.” It was during this time that MSU began planning for future academic programing in this space.
Besides providing a new life for an old power plant, the building uses an innovative wood construction, making it unique among campus buildings and the largest of its kind in Michigan. It uses both traditional glue-laminated timber for columns and beams, and cross-laminated timber in decking and stairwells. Cross-laminated timber, often referred to as mass timber or CLT, is a relatively new product for building construction that is made from gluing layers of solid wood at cross-grain to result in a lightweight, strong panel. CLT has been used for more than 20 years in Europe.
“Mass timber isn’t just cost-effective and sustainable, it also gives the building an attractive, inviting look,” LeFevre said. “Visitors will see the prominence of mass timber in the stairwells, common areas and instruction spaces.”
Based on programmatic needs identified by the Provost’s office, as wells as needs for undergraduate teaching laboratory space, the 40,000-square-foot power plant structure served as the logical focal point to accommodate the academic program. The two wings were constructed with mass timber at the north and south ends of the original structure, increasing teaching laboratory space by more than 100,000 square feet.
The additional instructional space helps meet increased STEM — an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math — course demand for generations of Spartans.
“The building is designed to provide an environment that supports the interactive, collaborative, and interdisciplinary nature of STEM,” said Jeff Bonk, project manager of the building. “Many of the old power plant components have been left in place as a nod towards the past, while the exposed mass timber structure and open spaces support the curriculum of innovation.”
Designers have also repurposed numerous components original to the 1948 power plant, including:
- A four-story boiler that has student help, study and lounge spaces built around it;
- Benches and seats using unused steel materials and power plant machinery; and
- Art pieces made from salvaged steam valves and machinery covers
February 2021 marks substantial completion of the building, a milestone noting building completion and being turned over to the university to maintain, and is followed by testing building systems, and installing equipment and interior finishes.
Occupants are expected to move into the space beginning this summer with student instruction starting fall 2021.