HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – As Huntsville continues to grow as a research and engineering hub, the University of Alabama in Huntsville is growing too.

On Friday, April 8, the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees gave their approval for Phase One of a project to build a new engineering building on the UAH campus. Phase One formally approves UAH officials to begin planning for the building, which will be an 80,000-square-feet, multi-story academic and research facility for the College of Engineering.

Building on the remarkable momentum in Huntsville, it is critical for UAH to continue fulfilling the region’s educational, workforce and research needs. A new engineering building will help us drive impactful research efforts and recruit and graduate exceptional students that meet the area’s growing high-tech workforce needs. I am grateful for and excited about the opportunity to provide this remarkable facility for our outstanding students, faculty and staff.

UAH Interim President Dr. Chuck Karr

As UAH’s flagship program, officials said the expansion with foster innovation in up-and-coming technical areas currently supported by the University, including unmanned aerial systems, big data, hypersonics, and artificial intelligence.

The preliminary project budget comes at a cost of $59.3 million, $18 million of which will come from Alabama supplemental funds signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday, April 14. According to UAH, other funding sources will include previously appropriated funds from the state, gifts to the University, and University reserve funds.

Phase One of the project includes plans to replace Wernher von Braun Research Hall, which dates back to 1964. The new research building is currently planned to be built west of the existing Engineering Building, next to the campus lake along John Wright Drive and Charger Way.

As the preferred site for the U.S. Space Command and the home to Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park, Huntsville is a STEM powerhouse with a critical need for talented professionals in the science, cyber and engineering fields. The continued growth of this knowledge-based economy requires a significant increase in STEM graduates. With the vast majority of UAH graduates staying in our state, expanding and enhancing the university’s engineering facility will directly fill our community’s workforce pipeline.

Alabama State Senator Tom Butler

Pending approval from the UA System Trustees, Phase Two of the project would include plans to fully renovate the existing Engineering Building.

UAH officials said the need for a new building is crucial to continuing to supply a highly-educated workforce to the state – 72% of alumni reside in Alabama – and help address workforce demands into the future, as Alabama is projected to need more than 850,000 STEM-related jobs by 2026.