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DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES-SHW Group will design and engineer a new 32,000-sf educational facility for Michigan State University in Dubai. The $3.7 million project will make MSU the first American university with a presence in the Dubai International Academic City.

The DIAC, has been called the world’s only free zone dedicated to international higher education. It was established in 2006 to help meet the growing demand for higher education in Dubai. Located about 20 minutes from the Dubai business district, the DIAC spans 25 million sf and is dedicated solely to universities and colleges. Eight million sf has been dedicated to the international higher education zone, while three million sf will be allocated for research and development centers.

Based in Plano, TX, SHW, which specializes in academic facilities, will oversee the project from its Detroit studio. SHW Group’s Dubai project will include MSU’s construction management, family and community services, communication arts and computer engineering programs. SHW designers are taking three floors of shell space in a new building through programming, conceptual design, schematic design and design development, which includes mechanical, electrical and architectural development.

“The students that are going to be educated here come from everywhere, so our idea is to create an environment that will attract students from all over the Middle East and Europe,” Marjorie Simmons, managing principal of SHW Group’s Michigan studio, tells GlobeSt.com. “At the center of the space is the ‘origin’–an interactive space where students from the various programs can collaborate, share learning experiences and develop relationships. With this interaction, a social energy is created which ripples throughout the surrounding learning environments, further reinforcing the discovery of the students who will be attending the four programs that the university has to offer.”

Through the use of materials and a dynamic “building language,” the concept will enhance the learning experience through interaction and culture exchange. These ideals align with MSU’s goals to increase student attraction and student retention and SHW’s goal of going beyond the basic needs and creating an enhanced educational experience for all who will attend the university.

The project is scheduled to be complete by August, so that students can being classes in the fall of 2008, Simmons says. “Things happen very quickly in Dubai. There is an intense desire to have the best education system in the world and they are willing to put the money in and fund it. And there are no unions, unlimited funding, and little red tape or government regulation.”

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