Lafayette breaks ground on Thursday, May 11, for the $75 million Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center, the largest capital project in the school’s history.

Lafayette is distinctive among undergraduate liberal arts colleges for its leadership in the sciences and engineering. The school’s engineering program just marked its 150th anniversary, and nearly half of its 2,500 students declare a major in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and math.

The new building will house scholars teaching and conducting research in the fields of biology, computer science, environmental science, and neuroscience. In addition, the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center–named for S. Kent Rockwell ’66 , one of the College’s most generous benefactors–will be physically connected to the adjacent Acopian Engineering Center on Anderson Courtyard.

“The Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center promises to be one of the country’s most innovative collegiate science buildings,” said President Alison Byerly. “We will now have at Lafayette a cutting-edge facility that is worthy of our long-standing leadership in the STEM fields, and that will help us continue to attract the very best students and faculty in a highly competitive market.”

“The driving force behind the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center is the need to inspire the scientific explorers of the future,” Byerly added. “We believe that learning and discovery happen best at the intersection of disciplines.”

Construction of the building comes as Lafayette undertakes a plan to add 40 faculty and 400 students over the next eight years as part of its strategy to eventually admit highly capable students without regard to their families’ finances.

The Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center is designed for how today’s students learn–collaboratively, 24/7, inside and outside the classroom. Spaces will adapt to new technology, varying group sizes, and diverse educational and research experiences. Faculty members and students will gather in the center’s public areas, sharing ideas that prompt discovery.

Lafayette’s IDEAL Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship also will be housed in the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center. IDEAL brings together students, faculty, and external partners to develop enterprising solutions to real-world problems. A large multi-use area anchored by a flexible maker space will serve as the new headquarters for IDEAL.

“Placing an entrepreneurial emphasis on problem solving inside a science center sends the message that at Lafayette, we value the risks inherent in pursuing new insights,” said Provost Abu Rizvi. “This center will be a locus of innovation that will harness learning across Lafayette to solve problems far beyond it.”

A new Center for Inclusive STEM Education, also included in the new building, will address the pressing national need to recruit more women and underrepresented minorities to these crucial fields, enabling their success and positioning Lafayette as a best-practice resource.

The Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center will embody Lafayette’s commitment to sustainability by boasting an energy consumption benchmark far below that of peer science buildings and potentially earning LEED Gold certification. Environmentally friendly features include natural heating and cooling, storm water capture and treatment, green hoods in laboratories, and natural ventilation.

The new five-story building was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm Payette to take full advantage of the topography at the construction site. On Anderson Courtyard, only three floors will be above ground, giving the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center a scale that matches neighboring buildings. Courtyards at and below ground level, as well as extensive use of glass and a soaring atrium, will make the building a signature gathering spot for the entire campus.

“The interdisciplinary STEM fields drive innovation, promote scientific literacy, and spark American competitiveness,” said Lafayette’s President Byerly. “With Lafayette’s liberal arts tradition, hands-on learning, intimate mentorship, and robust research opportunities, this center will strengthen our leadership role in STEM education.”