Welcoming students from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, the John D. Tickle Engineering Building officially opened its doors on Wednesday.

The 110,000-square-foot building, made possible with the help of alumnus John D. Tickle and a multi-million dollar gift from the state of Tennessee, will prominently feature a suspension bridge of fiber-reinforced plastic made by John Tickle's company, Strongwell Corporation.

The bridge, a separate gift from Tickle's original donation, is expected to become a future symbol for the building, according to William Dunne, the associate dean for research and technology for the College of Engineering.

"As time goes by, pictures of this building are going to involve this bridge," Dunne said. "It will be part of what you see when you see the John D. Tickle building."

As UT recognized the College of Engineering's need for new space and the fields' rising importance in today's job market, administrators fast-tracked the building's construction after breaking ground in 2011, said Dayakar Penumadu of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

"The College of Engineering is rapidly growing, and we are short of research, quality space as well as instructional space," Penumadu said. "We need ... more quality space like this and that was a pressing need for us to get here as quickly as we can."

The College of Engineering, which has been steadily growing in enrollment at a rate of 15 percent per year, designed the building with specific research in mind. Some rooms move data as quickly as 10 gigabits per second, allowing the engineering students to send data to labs across the country.

One of the main attractions is on the first floor in the High Bay Area. The area features a cement pit to recreate erosion environments and test the effects different soils will have on future structures.

The floor above also has a two-story water tank on the main floor that will be used for erosion tests conducted in the High Bay Area. The tank will recycle the water to be used in experiments.

"It (the High Bay Area) provides either new ... or significantly upgraded instructional space for the students," Dunne said. "It adds space to departments that have not had it before in terms of research."

In addition, the lab has two 10-ton cranes overhead to move in concrete structures and workways, a transfer that is not possible on every portion of campus, Dunne said.

Much of the High Bay Area will be used by a strong biaxial wall system, a distinctive design that allows researchers to create small-scale structures for the purpose of testing its durability. It involves dozens of spots on the floor and wall to tie down materials and see how it reacts.

"This is very unique in you can test how structures respond in earthquakes," Penumadu said. "If you were trying to design government buildings to resist blast loading, impact loading, we can do those type of measurements here."

The building will be divided, with floors one through four belonging to Civil and Environmental Engineering and the fifth belonging to Industrial and Systems Engineering.

"If you were associated with the Industrial and Systems Engineering, you really appreciate (the building)," Dunne said. "They've come from inside the stadium to literally the penthouse."