Ground broken on Hitt Hall
100,000-square-foot building will support innovations in construction teaching and research — and provide needed dining and classrooms.
On a day of gray skies an extraordinarily bright moment took place for Virginia Tech as leaders and donors broke ground on Hitt Hall, a 100,000-gross-square-foot facility that will house the Myers-Lawson School of Construction, add critical dining capacity, and provide general assignment academic classroom and collaboration space.
“This building is a tribute to what is possible when academia and industry collaborate to address the workforce needs of the 21st century, supported by generous friends and alumni,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said. “Hitt Hall will be an appropriate home for a nationally ranked and respected school that is developing the leaders and innovators who will define the industry’s future.”
The project begins during a time of far-reaching change in the construction industry, which like many sectors is being transformed by fast-emerging technologies.
“It’s no stretch to say that we’re at a transition point, something many of us call ‘Construction 4.0,’" said Brian Kleiner, who directs the Myers-Lawson School of Construction and is the Ralph H. Bogle Professor within the College of Engineering. “Advances in automation, robotics, and production systems technology are starting to transform the way we build, and that trend will only accelerate.”
Virginia Tech degree programs focused on construction began in the 1940s and have evolved into a transdisciplinary enterprise that has drawn from both the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the College of Engineering. Crossing disciplinary boundaries to equip faculty to solve complex problems and empower students for today’s far-reaching workplaces is one of the current strategic priorities for the university.
“For the Myers-Lawson School, that’s old news,” Interim College of Architecture and Urban Studies Dean Rosemary Blieszner said. “It’s a way of working that has been in place for a very long time. Myers-Lawson is a shining example of what higher education can be when we connect students, faculty, and industry partners in the shared effort to build talent.”
The Board of Visitors approved design and funding for the Hitt Hall project in August 2021. Located in the North Academic District and close to a new transit hub, Hitt Hall with serve thousands of students, whether for classes or meals, each day. Spring 2024 is the target for completion of construction. The building is named in recognition of a lead gift by the Hitt family, which founded one of the nation’s largest construction firms, HITT Contracting. Prior to the event Brett Hitt, co-chairman of HITT’s board of directors, reflected on the passion for education and innovation in construction felt by his father, Russell Hitt, who passed away in 2020.
“This is an exciting and inspiring moment,” Brett Hitt said. “We appreciate Virginia Tech’s leading role preparing today’s students to become tomorrow’s decision-makers in our industry."
Hitt also noted that Virginia Tech serves as a pipeline of talent for Hitt Contracting, where numerous Hokies are employed, including company CEO Kim Roy, a member of the Class of 1999 who earned her bachelor’s degree in building construction in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.
Leaders of several other major construction firms with strong relationships with Virginia Tech were at the event, including alumni John R. Lawson II ’75 of the W.M. Jordan Company, A. Ross Myers ’72 of Allan Myers Inc., and Preston White ’63 of Century Concrete.
White founded Century Concrete three years after graduating and is a member of the Board of Visitors for Virginia Tech.
“I appreciate how well Virginia Tech prepared me to succeed in industry, and it does an even better job today,” White said prior to the event. “Preparing the talent base that companies like mine are in need of is the life blood of the future — and this new building and expansion of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction will ensure a bright future for both the construction industry and Virginia Tech.”
White announced at the event that he, Brett Hitt, Lawson, and Myers recently committed to endow the Myers-Lawson School of Construction director's position and name it in honor of Kleiner and former program leader Mike Vorster.
Bethany Fernandez, a junior in construction engineering and management, was among the event speakers. Fernandez interned with Century Concrete through a magnet program at her high school. The experience inspired her to pursue construction education at Virginia Tech.
“I’m so excited to see this new building get underway on campus,” Fernandez said. “It makes me proud, and it is great to know there will be room for our program to continue to grow. In my opinion, one of the best things about our school is that it brings together elements of several other majors in ways that reflect how people collaborate in the industry. … It’s important to get different perspectives of what you will come across at work.”
Julie Ross, dean of the College of Engineering, concluded the event’s formal remarks by affirming the university’s commitment to providing a cutting-edge environment for research and education.
"We take pride in preparing tomorrow’s leaders for numerous industries, with construction front and center among them,” Ross said, later adding: “With this new facility, we look forward to even more hands-on, experiential learning opportunities for our students as well as cross-disciplinary collaboration here on campus and with our industry partners.”