Loyola University Chicago

Engineering Science

Flex Lab Engineering on display

Loyola’s Flex Lab—Engineering on display

In August, 2018, Loyola opened the new Engineering Science Flex Lab, located on Broadway near Sheridan. The Flex Lab embodies the Engineering Science program's active learning framework by focusing on open spaces and collaborative environments, with moveable furniture and equipment. This new building enables engaging experimentation in a state-of-the-art learning environment. Students work with peers on industry-sponsored senior projects that are aligned with Loyola’s social justice mission, and on multi-semester projects threaded through the curriculum that provide real-world context. Peter Schlecht, Assistant Vice President of Campus Planning, further refined the ideas behind the new space.

How did the idea generate? Loyola’s main goals are to meet the needs of the Engineering Science curriculum and capstone experience, to innovate how the University uses available space, and to increase student/faculty/public interaction. This space highlights transformation and skill, particularly as Engineering Science grows.

Architecturally speaking, why this design? This maker-space, a touchstone for the University, provides Engineering Science students the opportunity to invent, investigate, and create. The idea, too, is to design a way for the public to observe and be part of our learning community.  We decided to incorporate a large glass façade to provide an opportunity for the general public to observe and contemplate the nature of engineering. In this urban infill building, the façade also serves as source of light for the space. We employ electrochromic technology, a form of Smart Glass that changes with the daylight using sensors monitoring the intensity of sunlight on the facade. The glass becomes less transparent when the sun starts to set in the west reducing the solar heat gain and glare into the facility.

With all of our buildings, our goal is to achieve LEED Silver status minimum. Using technology to reduce energy use, this green initiative reduces the amount of air condition and lighting, which are the two biggest uses of energy.

What is the purpose of the flex lab long-term? We are putting engineering on display. Creating this maker-space allows Loyola to experiment. Except for a few private sections, there are no interior hard walls. We have the ability to flex into a larger lab; collaboration spaces can be adjusted to capture different space configurations by making minor adjustments. We are using technology such as sound-absorbing walls and adaptable  power outlets along the floor  to help with the flexible collaborative needs of students and faculty.

As Loyola moves toward creating the essential thinking spaces for STEM disciplines, we are also thinking of innovative building formats for the wider Loyola community.