More than 275 community members, partners, and friends joined Virginia Tech and Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. on Feb. 7 to celebrate the next milestone for the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus – the topping out ceremony. The event featured a program inside the first floor of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus construction site and the ceremonial lifting of a steel beam to the highest point - the 11th story - of Academic Building One.

“This is a significant moment for Virginia Tech, symbolizing the tremendous progress we have made on both construction and academic planning for the Innovation Campus,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “The Innovation Campus will be an important source of tech talent for the greater Washington, D.C., region — and is vital to Virginia Tech’s growing presence in the area. I look forward to 2024, when we welcome students, faculty, and the community into this remarkable building.”

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A topping out is traditionally held when the last beam of a building’s main structure is put into place. The 37-foot beam was signed by hundreds of construction workers as well as alumni, university leaders, faculty, community supporters, and partners involved in the project. Afterward, it was secured on the northeast side of the building’s top floor. 

Tuesday’s ceremony gave Virginia Tech and Whiting-Turner a chance to recognize contributors involved in the project’s efforts. The program was held in what will eventually be the Innovation Campus’ 355-seat auditorium and featured remarks from Sands, Innovation Campus Vice President and Executive Director Lance Collins, University Architect Liza Morris, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, Whiting-Turner Project Manager Summer Cleary, Bailey Edelson from JBG SMITH, and Innovation Campus Advisory Board Chair Sanju Bansal.

“We are building a tech community perfectly positioned to connect talented students with Northern Virginia’s growing tech ecosystem,” said Collins. “In this process, details matter, and I am thankful for the contributions of everyone involved in the planning, design, and construction of our campus to date.” 

Virginia Tech broke ground on the Innovation Campus in September 2021, and construction is on schedule for a fall 2024 opening. The construction project has included digging two stories below ground to put in an underground parking garage and building out the 11-story, 300,000-square-foot steel structure. Over the last 18 months, more than 1,150 workers have contributed to the project. They have:

  • Worked more than 277,000 hours
  • Erected 3,300 tons of structural steel
  • Poured 13,500 cubic yards of concrete
  • Pumped 41.5 million gallons of water from the site
Two workers direct a steel beam being pulled by a crane
A steel beam with signatures of those who attended Tuesday's ceremony starts to rise to its final place. Photo by Travis Carr for Virginia Tech

“I am extremely proud of the hard work, dedication, and precision of each and every worker and sub-contractor who has helped with this project,” said Cleary, a Virginia Tech alumna who is leading a project for her alma mater for the first time. “This building is unique, and we are all excited to see the next phases of the construction come to life.”

Virginia Tech’s 3.5-acre campus is part of the first phase of a new mixed-use development and innovation district that JBG SMITH is developing in North Potomac Yard near the future Potomac Yard-VT Metrorail Station. The building’s design is focused on principles of sustainability, health and wellness, green and social spaces, accessibility, connectivity, flexibility, and integrated technology.

Seven people smile for the camera while holding pens they used to sign their names to a steel beam behind them.
From left, University Architect Liza Morris, Whiting-Turner Project Manager Summer Cleary, Innovation Campus Vice President and Executive Director Lance Collins, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, Bailey Edelson from JBG SMITH, and Innovation Campus Advisory Board Chair Sanju Bansal all signed their names to the steel beam. Photo by Travis Carr for Virginia Tech

With the building’s steel structure complete, it is easy to see its unique gem-shaped features. Academic Building One, designed by SmithGroup, reflects the art and science of engineering and technology, and its multiple angles will generate maximum solar capture to help power the building. Floors one through seven are approximately 35,000 square feet each, while the final three floors are each approximately 12,000 square feet.

Additional facts and figures about Innovation Campus Academic Building One:

  • 3.5-acre campus
  • 300,000-square-foot building
  • 3,000-square-foot first floor large classroom/auditorium with room for 200 people (classroom style) or 355 people (auditorium style)
  • 14 classrooms
  • 1,340-square-foot cyber physical lab adjacent to a 465-square-foot, two-story drone testing cage
  • The Innovation Campus will be the Northern Virginia home to the Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics on the fifth floor, a dedicated K-12 Programs Center on the second floor, and the Boeing Center for Veterans and Families, which will be co-located with the Hokie One Stop on the second floor.
  • Three instructional studios to support online teaching and learning.
  • 4,500-square-foot roof deck on the eighth floor, providing views of the Washington, D.C., skyline for groups of up to 300 people. 
  • 32 “huddle rooms” for student/faculty collaboration
  • A 169-space underground parking garage
  • Eight electric charging stations in garage
  • A five-minute walk from the Potomac Yard-VT Metrorail Station (scheduled for a May 2023 opening)

Since the hiring of Collins in 2020, campus leadership have focused on expanding student recruitment and enrollment management functions, defining future academic program and research areas of focus, and hiring top faculty — the first group of which joined the campus in August 2022

A man smiles at the camera while signing his name to a steel beam
President Tim Sands adds his name to the steel beam at the topping out ceremony for the first Innovation Campus building. Photo by Travis Carr for Virginia Tech

Today, there are close to 300 Innovation Campus master’s students in Northern Virginia, focused on computer science and computer engineering. Enrollment numbers for spring 2023 will be finalized in late February. And with the addition of the Boeing Graduate Scholars program, among other scholarships, the campus continues to increase access to an advanced computer science and computer engineering education for students historically underrepresented. 

At its full build-out, the Innovation Campus will host approximately 750 master’s and 200 doctoral students and graduate 550 master’s and 50 doctoral candidates annually. 

The university expects to welcome students, faculty, and staff into the completed building in the fall of 2024. Students are currently based at the university’s Falls Church location. Future plans for the Innovation Campus call for two other campus buildings, measuring about 150,000 square feet each, to be built as the campus grows. See more renderings and a virtual tour on our campus and construction page.

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