The two newest buildings in the university's Innovation Quad are home to the departments of engineering and physics and include a diverse range of spaces for engaged learning.
Elon University on Friday celebrated those who made possible Founders Hall and Innovation Hall, two state-of-the-art facilities that are now home to a range of engaged learning opportunities and are the two newest buildings in the Innovation Quad.
Gathering for the dedication were the architects and builders who envisioned and constructed the conjoined buildings along North O’Kelly Avenue and the individuals, families and corporate partners who helped make Founders Hall and Innovation Hall a reality.
“Today is a celebration of all the hands, all the hearts and all the minds that came together to make this happen,” Vice President for University Advancement Jim Piatt said to those gathering outside the font entrance to Founders Hall.
The two buildings opened in August 2022 for the new academic year and are home to the departments of engineering and physics and serve as a new hub for multidisciplinary education and innovation in the heart of Elon’s campus. Announced in 2020 as part of the Boldly Elon strategic plan, these buildings feature 65,000 square feet of cutting-edge labs, workshops and creation spaces.
President Connie Ledoux Book said she had the pleasure of being in the buildings on the first day of classes and seeing how students reacted to the new spaces.
“When the students walked in, it was priceless to see their faces and the excitement of what was going to unfold in this building as part of their education,” Book said. “This entire building is an educator — everything from the materials used, the design of the classrooms and the interactive spaces.”
Book recalled the paperwork to authorize the construction of the two buildings coming across her desk in the summer of 2020. It was a time when the country and the world were in the early months of the global COVID-19 pandemic and life at Elon and nearly everywhere was disrupted. Signing off on the project represented hope, Book said.
“There was something so good about penning my name on that paperwork that we were going to be OK, better than OK, that we were going to emerge from this pandemic stronger as an institution,” Book said. “I would come watch the construction and would walk past and it was a reminder about the world moving forward.”
The location of Founders Hall and Innovation Hall adjacent to the Dalton L. McMichael Sr. Science Center, Richard W. Sankey Hall and the Ernest A. Koury Sr. Business Center solidifies the connections between STEM and the sciences, entrepreneurship, sales, design thinking and analytics. Over time, the complex will include academic, residential, dining and other support facilities.
“Obviously, the students in engineering and physics benefit greatly from this building, but almost every student on campus is spending time in this building,” said Gabie Smith, dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s really been a gathering space for all sorts of student groups, faculty, staff and community groups.”
The gathering also offered an opportunity to show off the Innovation Quad’s newest addition — a towering solar sunflower outside Founders Hall that opens in the morning, tracks the sun as it collects energy and then closes at sundown. The concept is similar to one explored by an Elon engineering student who believed solar panels didn’t need to be affixed to rooftops and be visually boring, Book said.
“It feels special to have the seed of a student idea on a pedestal now and as we walk past it, it’s a reminder that we are educating young people who will go out to change the world with their ideas,” Book said.
The project was made possible by the work of Ayers Saint Gross, Edmondson Engineers, Samet Corp., Stimmel Associates, Walter Robbs Architects and Elon’s Planning, Design and Construction Management team including Brad Moore, Tim Dengler, Jason Tripp, Marsalis Foster, Holly Hodge and Jenny Gonzalez.
The design and construction of the buildings achieved LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for meeting or exceeding a range of healthy, efficient, carbon- and cost-saving green building standards. Diane Coleman, a regional representative for the U.S. Green Building Council, presented Brad Moore, university architect and director of planning, design and construction management, with a LEED Gold emblem to adorn the buildings.
“We’re here to recognize Elon University for its leadership, its environmental stewardship and its role in enhancing and transforming the built environment,” Coleman said. “We applaud Elon University and the team of leaders who worked on this project for helping raise the bar for when we should expect from our green built environment.”
Book also shared with the audience the recognition Founders Hall and Innovation Hall have already generated among the interior design community. Director of Interior Design Holly Hodge and Interior Designer Jenny Gonzalez were recently recognized at the 2022 Design Competition Awards from the Association of University Interior Designers, winning first place in the New Construction over $500,000 category and overall Best in Show for their interior design work in Founders Hall and Innovation Hall.
To cap the dedication, lead donors lined up before the front doors to Founders Hall for a ribbon-cutting ceremony before joining other attendees for guided tours of the two buildings.
The university wishes to thank all of the donors who made Founders Hall and Innovation Hall possible, including:
- Susan and Furman Moseley ’56
- Steve Anderson P ’16
- Connie Ledoux Book
- Chandler Concrete Company, Inc.
- Larry and Anne Clark P’19
- Jay Grossman P’22
- Marsha and Bill Herbert ’68
- Russell and Jennifer Herndon P’17 P’22
- Sam and Vicky Hunt
- Sam and Krista Hunt
- The McMichael Family Foundation
- Julie Simon Munro P’21 P’23
- The Estate of Edna C. Noiles ’44
- John and Kristin Replogle P’18
- The William E. Simon Foundation Kevin Tedeschi P’18
- Jonathan and Renée Zung P’17 P’20