New SEEC building to house ENVS in 2015

November 7, 2013

SEEC Construction March 2014

Question: What do you get when you put three research institutes, two federal partners, two academic departments, and cutting-edge laboratory equipment into a state-of-the-art workspace dedicated to interdisciplinary research?
Answer: Mutual inspiration and beneficial exchanges – what Nobel Laureate and CU professor Tom Cech terms as “fruitful collisions” of people, research, and ideas.

That’s how Environmental Studies Professor James White and many others are envisioning the new Sustainability, Energy, and Environment Complex (“SEEC”), which he hopes will be ready to house Environmental Studies and many other programs in 2015. “This will not be a building for an individual discipline, as has traditionally been the case at CU," said White. "What we want to do is to create academic 'neighborhoods' all under one roof to allow for maximum mingling and interdisciplinary interactions.

White is the Director of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at CU, one of the many groups that will occupy the new SEEC space. The complex will house two academic units - Environmental Studies and Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences - as well as several institutes, including the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and the Center of the American West. Additionally, two federal groups will have space in SEEC: the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

SEEC will consist of two buildings at the corner of Colorado Avenue and Foothills Parkway. One of the buildings has been purchased already and was the old office of US West. This building will provide 289,000 square feet of office and will be retrofitted as offices and workspace (including an accelerator mass spectrometer) for SEEC tenants. The second building will be built from the ground up and will provide state of the art laboratory space. The 145,000 LEED-certified lab building will be constructed using an open lab design concept to encourage idea exchange and collaboration. 

"The groups that will be housed at the SEEC campus currently are spread across seventeen buildings at CU," said White. "SEEC is thus not only a new building, but a new approach to academic research. Instead of separating disciplines with brick walls and institutional boundaries, our hope is to encourage coordination and innovation between research endeavors that have traditionally been disparate." 

SEEC will provide the true home Environmental Studies has never had. ENVS began as a program at CU in 1993 and was first housed in the attic of Hellems. It was then moved to Ketchum, then to Benson, and currently is housed in the Arts and Sciences Office Building 1 at 1201 17th Street. 

White reports that $15 million is still needed for construction. He is launching a major donation campaign to help meet these costs, soliciting alumni donations as well as donations from private partners. His group is working with a local architect and contractor to move forward with design of the new lab as well as the building retrofit. 

"Our vision for SEEC is to help guide the world towards sustainability in an elegant and innovative fashion," said White.

Click here to donate to the SEEC building fund.

ENVS Faculty: James White

Tags: ENVS, East Campus, James White, SEEC, News