ECE solar roof

Stephen Haas/News-Gazette Archives Solar panels on the roof of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Building provide about 25 percent of the facility’s electrical consumption.Stephen Haas/The News-Gazette ¿ Solar panels are seen on the roof of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Building Wednesday, May 22, 2019, on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana.

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URBANA — Five years after it opened, the $98 million Electrical and Computer Engineering Building at the University of Illinois has been awarded “platinum” certification under the LEED environmental rating system.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system, or LEED, was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to recognize buildings that are designed, built and operated for sustainability and quality of life.

The building is the 21st LEED-certified project on the UI campus and only the fourth to achieve platinum status. Others are the Business Instructional Facility, the Lincoln Hall renovation and Bousfield Residence Hall.

The Electrical and Computer Engineering Building was cited for its sustainable site development, construction and waste management; water savings; energy efficiency; materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Designed to someday be a “net zero” energy user, the building has a $3 million rooftop solar array with 950 panels that generate renewable electricity for the building and, on sunny days, contribute to the campus-wide power grid. The building also uses power from campus solar farms.

Its stormwater storage system ensures that water runoff from the building is slowed to mimic the flow of water on an open field.

The building also features passive heating and cooling features, including a distinctive terra cotta exterior and sun shades, and the chilled-beam heating and cooling system is highly energy-efficient.

The solar array wasn’t completed until last spring because of a design error blamed on an outside architectural firm.

The panels started operating last spring, providing about 25 percent of the building’s electrical consumption. The original plan was to add another rooftop solar array to the top of the nearby North Campus Parking Garage to help reach the net-zero energy target, but it was deemed too expensive.

Long term, the campus hopes to allot part of the second UI solar farm planned in Savoy to the ECE Building so 100 percent of its energy will come from sustainable sources.

Designers from the UI and SmithGroup of Chicago see it as a living laboratory and a model for low energy design in the Midwest.

“Illinois ECE serves as a prime example of how the work of innovative building projects can use local solutions to make a global impact on the environment,” Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council, said.

Around campus

The 21 LEED-certified projects at the University of Illinois:

➜ Platinum (4): Business Instructional Facility, Lincoln Hall renovation, Bousfield Hall, Electrical and Computer Engineering Building.

➜ Gold (10): National Petascale Computing Facility, Ikenberry Commons Residence Hall*, Wassaja Residence Hall, State Farm Center, Chemistry Annex, Chez Veterans Center, Surveying Building renovation, Natural History Building renovation, Everitt Laboratory renovation, Nugent Hall*.

➜ Silver (7): Ikenberry Dining Hall, Evers Laboratory, NCEL Yeh Student Center Addition, Illinois Fire Service Institute, Huff Hall North Addition, CERL Main Building Addition, Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory

*-Two phases of the same building



Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).