You are here

Renovation for collaboration

Derek Hansford (left), associate professor of biomedical engineering; stands outside Koffolt and Fontana Labs with Heather Powell, associate professor of materials science and engineering, and biomedical engineering; and Associate Dean Rudy Buchheit.By the summer of 2020, the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering will share a new home—one that will support their missions of teaching, learning and discovery.

Design work is currently underway for the highly anticipated Koffolt-Fontana renovation on north campus. It’s the first of what is expected to be at least a two-phase project to create the Biomedical and Materials Engineering Complex (BMEC)—the university’s investment in next-generation materials research, development and experiential learning. From innovations that enable lighter, stronger and more efficient vehicles to engineering tissue and other biomaterials to advance medicine, some of the world’s most critical problems will be solved here.

The $59.1 million project, which includes state and university investment plus a $10 million philanthropic target, will transform the aging Koffolt and Fontana Lab buildings on West 19th Avenue into modern, efficient spaces for 21st century teaching and research.

“This is a complete interior and exterior renovation. Everything in Fontana and Koffolt will be new, but with the same bones on the outside,” explained Rudy Buchheit, associate dean for academic affairs and administration.

Although primarily a renovation project, it will also include demolishing the high bay at the northwest end of Koffolt Laboratories—former home of chemical engineering’s unit operations lab—and building a similarly sized addition. The newly constructed area will include a 150-seat auditorium.

There is a critical need to modernize both structures, explained Buchheit. “Those buildings have been well-loved and well-used for 50 years and we’ve gotten every bit out of them that we can.”

At approximately 135,000 gross square feet once complete, the project won’t result in additional square footage over existing facilities. But by incorporating modern design standards, dramatic improvements in energy efficiency, space utilization and overall effectiveness will be realized.

“There’s very distinct thought being given to how you deploy the space within the building to maximize utilization rate,” Buchheit explained.

The project will also enable the college to meet a long-time goal of bringing the biomedical engineering academic program to central campus. Currently housed in Bevis Hall on west campus, this move will make a critical difference for biomedical engineering students.

“Students take some of their classes on central campus and some on west campus, but bus service doesn’t deliver you from central campus to Bevis within a class-change period,” Buchheit said. “Getting the academic component of biomedical engineering in and amongst materials science, chemical engineering, chemistry and physics is huge. This will dramatically amplify the impact of biomedical engineering within the college.”

By bringing together biomedical engineering and materials science, the project will also enhance research and interdisciplinary collaboration, especially in areas like biomaterials.

“Faculty will be able to conduct their research more effectively, more efficiently and more safely,” Buchheit said. “There will be opportunities to combine teaching with research. There will be an opportunity to allow the research themes of biomedical engineering and materials science to co-mingle.”

Extra care is being taken to ensure the new facility can accommodate future research needs for the next fifty years and beyond.

“The lab space is turning out to be very, very modular,” Buchheit said. “Having a wide-open floor plate with movable walls and modular equipment will, over several decades, allow us to reconfigure and use that space to meet whatever the evolving needs are of research.”

In addition to housing a number of materials science and engineering (MSE) research labs, the department’s administrative and student services offices will also move from Watts Hall into the newly renovated confines. MSE’s classrooms, labs and offices will remain in Watts Hall and MacQuigg Labs, which, according to Buchheit, may be renovated in phase 2 of the Biomedical and Materials Engineering Complex project.

Michael Hagenberger, assistant dean for facilities planning and management, will lead the project on behalf of the College of Engineering, along with the design architect team of Perkins+Will and Moody Nolan, led by alum Curtis Moody, and Ruscilli, the construction manager. Campus partners on the project include the Office of Academic Affairs and Office of Physical Planning and Real Estate.

Demolition and construction for the Koffolt-Fontana renovation is expected to begin in the summer of 2018, pending approval from The Ohio State University Board of Trustees.

Both departments also look forward to the boost the new space will provide to efforts to attract the very best faculty and students.

“People are very attracted to new and comfortable spaces,” Buchheit said. “We can’t offer any of that in our existing facilities. It can be an uphill recruitment battle for us.”


Interested in learning how to support this critical project? Please contact Steve Crissinger, senior director of development for the college, at

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications,

Tags: College