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MSU's old Shaw Lane Power Plant is now the STEM Teaching and Learning Facility

MSU opens new STEM building
Posted at 9:06 PM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 21:06:55-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University opened the new STEM Teaching and Learning Facility this summer and, while it might be new, some pieces of it date back to 75 years ago.

STEM Teaching and Learning Facility
MSU's STEM building is across from Spartan Stadium.

“We know that this was a power plant. How do we celebrate that?" said Project Coordinator Nestor DeOcampo.

If you look at the outside you might think it's just another MSU building, but the second you walk through the door you're reminded of the history.

Preserving the history
Planners of the project decided to keep parts to preserve the history.

“We’re standing in a larger complex that’s bookending, as we call it, the original Shaw Lane Power Plant,” DeOcampo said. “The Shaw Lane Power Plant was constructed in 1946 and decommissioned in 1976 for when we brought T.B. Simon Power Plant online.”

DeOcampo said everywhere you look, you're reminded of the plant that once powered the entire MSU campus.

“The history of the building is being that idea of we have a power plant and where we get our energy usage, but it’s also about making the connections for our students to kind of know the history of where we were to where we want to be,” he said.

Preserving the history
Old history is preserved throughout the building.

From walking through the boiler.

“We left a lot of these connections exposed so the students and visitors get to see what was coming through and what does the inside of a boiler look like,” DeOcampo said.

Or sitting in the ash silo where ash was once dumped from the fourth floor. It's now about connecting the past with the future through interactive old spaces and interactive news spaces.

“We’re standing in one of those laboratories and this space is designed to have the environment adjust to emerging pedagogies," he said.

Sustainable wood
DeOcampo talks about the sustainability of the wood used in the building.

Utilizing a space already on campus isn't the only sustainable part of this project.

“We used a mass timber product from a sustainable forest," DeOcampo said. "What we have in this building is 80 to 120 year old black spruce and a sustainable forest basically means, just like it sounds, the forest is replanted as they being to harvest that wood product.”

There's new classrooms and collaborative spaces.

“The students can get that sense of I’m never ever far away from my colleague, I’m never ever far away from my class that this building is all about that larger connection,” DeOcampo said.

Original power plant entrance
The original limestone entrance to the power plant was preserved in the new STEM building.

DeOcampo describes the atmosphere of the building in two words: Energetic and charged. His favorite part is something they preserved.

“Standing up on that landing looking at this original entrance," DeOcampo said. "The notion that what’s behind me is this massive limestone edifice and that’s the history of the building, but it also is that entrance into a new discovery.”

And he is glad students are getting to enjoy it too.

“The beautiful sense of that connection between what is the new and what is the old.”

The $110 million project began with planning in 2016 and construction in 2017. After a four-month delay due to COVID, the building opened in July of this year, just in time to welcome students back to campus.

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