STEM building wins multiple national, state awards for innovation, construction and design

A brief tour of the STEM Teaching and Learning Facility showing its mass timber framing while it was in the final stages of completion. 

April 4, 2022

Repurposed power plant that uses sustainable, wood-frame construction in additions named nationally as “most significant construction project of 2021”

MSU’s new STEM Teaching and Learning Facility received top honors last week from the Associated General Contractors of America, a national construction industry association.

Calling it “the most significant construction project of 2021,” the association also awarded the STEM building for being the best construction management renovation project under $99 million at its national conference in Texas. The building also has received other awards recognizing its ground-breaking use of mass timber products in its construction.

“These awards are a credit to the strong partnership created by multiple campus units, and the construction and design teams to not only significantly expand cutting-edge STEM instructional space for faculty and students, but also do so in a way that serves as a demonstration of promising sustainable construction methods,” said John LeFevre, IPF Planning, Design and Construction director. “The amount of interest this building has generated throughout Michigan and nationally has been incredible.”

MSU worked with Granger Construction Co. as the general contractor, and Integrated Design Solutions, Ellenzweig and IDEO as the design team. Key campus units involved include Infrastructure Planning and Facilities; Institutional Space Planning and Management, the provost’s office and others. The state of Michigan contributed $30 million to the $110 million total project.

The project renovated the old Shaw Lane Power Plant, which had sat dormant next to Spartan Stadium and Wells Hall since being decommissioned in 1975, as the new structure’s center with two additions built with carbon-sequestering mass timber instead of concrete or steel. It embodies the university’s goal of providing world-class education with classrooms and laboratory spaces designed specifically for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses.

Construction of the new building employed cross-laminated timber for floors and ceilings, and glue-laminated wooden columns, a first in Michigan. The project involved renovating 40,000 square feet in the old power plant and adding 120,000 square feet in the additions.

To feature the structure’s history as a power plant, designers made use of original building materials and machinery to create art pieces and seating, as well as saving a four-story boiler that serves as an anchor for student spaces.

The STEM building project received 10 other awards including:

  • Build Michigan Grand Award and awarded as the top renovation project from the Associated General Contractors of Michigan in February
  • Project of the Year from the Construction Association of Michigan in February
  • WoodWorks — Wood Products Council U.S. Design Award in March
  • Leadership Award from the Forest Stewardship Council in October 2021
MSU's general contractor Granger Construction Co. and design partner IDS share details about the STEM building's innovative adaptive reuse and mass timber construction.