April 20, 2017
A $2.2 million renovation project to U-M's Marine Hydrodynamics Lab, which houses a 360-foot-long indoor body of water that serves as a testing facility for new commercial ship designs as well as a teaching tool for students, was approved Thursday by the Board of Regents.
In its 112-year history, the lab has launched some of the most significant innovations in naval architecture, including the fuel-saving "bulbous bow" technology that's used on nearly all of the large cargo ships that transport 90 percent of the world's goods.
Renovations to the lab will focus on making its workspaces more open, flexible and collaborative, and on creating a space that's more engaged with the campus around it. Work is slated to start in July and the facility's re-opening is scheduled for January 2018.
The exterior of the building and the testing basin itself will remain unchanged. Planned improvements to the lab include:
• A new interior vestibule with a large glass panel that will showcase the testing basin.
• Renovations to offices and research spaces to make them more open and versatile.
• An upgraded and relocated computer lab that will integrate better with the work being done in the testing basin.
• A new series of displays and exhibits that will tell the story of U-M's unique naval architecture heritage as one of only a few dedicated naval architecture programs in the United States.
The project includes architectural, electrical and mechanical work and will provide an average of eight on-site construction jobs. Approval of the project included the appointment of Harley Ellis Devereaux for its design.
Funding will be provided by the College of Engineering resources and gifts.
The facility is located in West Hall, on the southeast corner of the Diag on the university's Central Campus.
Built in 1904, the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory's "tow tank" was the first university-affiliated facility of its kind in the United States, and is still the largest. It's used both as a teaching tool and for testing new commercial vessel designs.
"For generations, the hydrodynamics lab has provided students with educational tools and experiences they can't get anywhere else — testing new propulsion systems and hull designs and learning about hydrodynamics at a commercial-scale facility. It has also enabled commercial shippers to launch some of the most important new ideas in marine technology," said Alec D. Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Aerospace Engineering.
"These renovations will reinvigorate it for a new generation of students and visitors and provide a fitting showcase for one of the premier naval architecture schools in the United States."
The facility also will get a new name: The Aaron Friedman Marine Hydrodynamics Lab, named for the CoE alumnus whose family's gift made the renovations possible. Aaron Friedman received an undergraduate degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, both from U-M. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II and had a lifelong love of boats and the water.
"The knowledge that my father gained at U-M is something that stayed with him every day of his life," said Barbara Friedman-Kohler, Aaron Friedman's daughter and a 1973 alumna of what was then the College of Architecture and Design. "I hope this gift will help make the lab a place that draws in and inspires today's students, that helps them see that with a great education, the sky's the limit."