Our new Illini Hall - make it solar.

This is to jumpstart our Department of Mathematics' brainstorming on specifics of the new Illini Hall building. (Here is the LAS news article about this building/renovation project.)

Read the suggestions below, bookmark this page and come again. I am not part of the Renovation Committee, the items below represent my own suggestions.

Do it right. Do not agree to a mediocre building. We will be stuck with it for centuries.

Come up with your own ideas, convey them to the department's AH/IH Renovation Committee by filling out this form.


Whether you are from the Mathematics Department or not, help designing the building. Make sure it's solar. (See (1) below.) Post your design here for everyone to see. The sooner the better. View the designs posted by other people on the same website. (Here are detailed instructions on how to view and post the designs, in case you need them.) Maybe a design of The Math Garden as well? (See (36) and (37) below.) If you like a particular design, vote for it by clicking on "+1". Send the link to this website to anyone who might be interested. Encourage other people to post their ideas. This should be a collective project. Discuss. Improve. Create.


Updated recently. 43 suggestions now.


  1. First and foremost: make the new Illini Hall building ENERGY EFFICIENT and SOLAR. Our department will be paying for its own energy. Save the money and the planet. Automatic light shut-off switches, LED lightbulbs, etc.

    Make sure to put many solar panels on it! The building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) seem to be the best for new buildings like ours. They come in many shapes and forms. They are also cheaper than regular PV panels.

  2. Is an electric heating system more efficient and sustainable than what we have now? If yes, go for it. Since we will (should) be producing our electricity with solar.

  3. Don't just put solar panels ON the building. Rather, design the building FROM SCRATCH for the most effective placement of solar panels. It is a great opportunity, since we are not just remodeling the building, but build it anew.

  4. Make the solar panels highly visible both from Wright Street and from John Street. The building should make a statement of progress, science and the future. It should be stylish and attractive. It will serve an important educational purpose too.

  5. Maybe make the building staggered or slanted in some parts to accommodate for multiple layers of solar panels.

  6. Here is one minimalist idea. Starting from the second floor, slant the wall facing John Street (south) optimally to the sun, and make it a giant solar panel. Add another floor or two to the building for more space, and for more sun exposure on this slanted wall.

    Do something similar on the west/south-west side of the building. (Think of Krannert Center as a starting point. But with a slightly different color, see (18) below.)

    Certainly use the remaining roof space for solar panels too. (Say like this.)

  7. We are not just building a building, we are building the future and saving the planet. This is the statement that should be prominent in the design.

  8. Make a nice stylish shape that complements the shape of the neighboring buildings. See, for example, the The Office of Student Financial Aid building, it looks good. (Zoom in on the map above to see.) Make a geometrically pleasing irregular shape.

  9. The building should be tall enough and the solar panels should be placed on it so that the neighboring Turner Student Servises building does not block the light to the panels.

  10. Don't know exactly how to incorporate solar panels into the building design? We have a whole College of Engineering for that. Cooperate, ask the engineers to design it. This is a good educational opportunity too.

  11. We also have Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment at UIUC. Cooperate with them to make the most efficient building.

  12. Keep the backyard, especially the trees and benches. Nice space! I personally solved a few good problems there. Also had good communications with Joe Rotman and others in that place. It is a mathematician's oasis. Very inspirational. Please keep it that way. If more space is needed, shift the building towards Green Street, NOT towards the garden. See more on the garden in (36) below.

  13. This construction project has a strong educational component, for students and for the public in general. Recall the University of Illinois mission statement: The University of Illinois System will transform lives and serve society by educating, creating knowledge, and putting knowledge to work on a large scale and with excellence.

    So, let's use this once-in-a-century opportunity. This project, if done properly, will indeed transform lives, serve society, educate, and put our knowledge to work on a large scale and with excellence. Make it happen.

  14. Want people to come to our university? Want to be a leader in education? Then lead by example. Designing a nice-looking energy efficient building with solar panels will be a good start. That will also serve as a template for future construction projects on campus. Buildings with integrated solar panels should become standard. The time to start is now.

  15. In the building: make offices upstairs, classrooms (if they are needed at all) downstairs. Restrict the bell rings to the downstairs classrooms only. It is nice NOT to have bell rings in the office space, a nice feature of the current building.

  16. A bus stop is right between Altgeld Hall and Illini Hall. For many students and other visitors to U of I, these two buildings are the FIRST things they see. Make a good first impression. Make this THE FACE of our university for centuries to come. Make it an iconic place. It is a great opportunity for our department and the university to show our best, to promote science and progress, and to attract new students.

  17. The same for tour-guided groups. They regularly walk next to Altgeld Hall and the Alma Mater statue. These two things signify our great past. The new Illini Hall should signify our great future. It should become a regular tour destination. After the building is finished, instruct the tour guides to devote a substantial amount of time to its history, purpose, and symbolic significance.

  18. If you want to match the rest of the campus, make the same exterior color as in Grainger Library. It is slightly brighter than some other dark-brown buildings on campus. Looks nice.

    Except Grainger Library does not have solar panels. Shame on you, Engineering.

  19. To be able to open windows in the offices and classrooms would be nice. (I don't know how this fits with energy efficiency. Would be nice to have both.)

  20. Would be nice to have a large office! (I have many books... :)

  21. We got a few boxes built on Green Street recently. Don't make our new building another box. Explore other options. How about some nice mathematical shape? Trefoil knot, anyone? 3-dimensional torus? Dodecahedron? Half-of-dodecaherdron? (The straight flat part facing Wright Street, and the "dodecahedron part" facing south and east, absorbing sunlight.) Pentagonal hexecontahedron? Look here for this and many more polyhedral shapes.

  22. Another possibility for a shape: an irregular fractal, maybe? Make your suggestions. I think a department of MATHEMATICS collectively should be able to come up with a great-looking, functional, and optimally sustainable shape. Mobilize topologists, geometers, graph theorists. If that fails, ask your graduate students. And undergraduate students. Announce a competition on the best project for the building. Produce a design maximizing usability, beauty and sun exposure. An Illinois Geometry Lab project on building design, anyone? We need it soon.

  23. Wright Street separates Urbana and Champaign. Create a symbolic connection between the two towns by making a LITERAL TUNNEL between Altgeld hall and Illini Hall under Wright Street, uniting their classrooms into one space.

  24. Call it "The Urbana-Champaign Tunnel". Put a sign in Illini Hall saying "The CU Tunnel". Put a sign in Altgeld Hall saying "The UC Tunnel", pun intended. Instruct the tour guides to mention that to the visitors.

  25. Maybe rename the bus stop next to Altgeld Hall into "The Urbana-Champaign Tunnel"? Or something like that? Just a thought.

  26. Of course, the tunnel should be sturdy enough to survive heavy traffic on Write Street.

  27. Let the guided tours walk THROUGH the tunnel as well? Why not?

  28. Did you see how the classrooms 141 and 143 are halfway under the ground? It's great that the windows are right at the surface level, so that you can watch trees. And communicate with squirrels. (A major university attraction.) Make the classrooms in the new Illini Hall at the same level, with windows just above the ground. This also enables the tunnel to go horizontally and connect the two classroom spaces. (Especially if the classrooms in the new building are downstairs.)

  29. They say we don't have enough money? Think again. Did you ask donors for funds for a new building? In that case they indeed might be hesitant. That is NOT what we will do. We won't just build a building. We will build a pilgrimage destination and a worship site for science and progress. We will create the future right here in the middle of the campus. We will educate, transform lives, and serve society. We will also build a symbol of unity between two twin cities. Design a GREAT project and explain its visual, symbolic and functional greatness to donors. (Ask Jeff Bezos for a few billion dollars, with no strings attached). Who would not want to associate their name with THAT?

  30. The fact that our department will be paying for its energy is a justification for us to keep pushing for energy efficiency. Do not agree to a mediocre plan. Ask the university administration to agree to build an energy efficient building. We should be allowed to create our own electricity with solar panels. Because otherwise we will be paying the cost for long time.

  31. Use the opportunity and the unique location of the site to ask for a truly exceptional design. Argue, correctly, that this will promote our department and our university. It will also attract new students. The project, if done right, will eventually pay for itself. Oh, and it might as well save our planet.

  32. We should be PRODUCING more energy than we spend. Design a building that will do that. Hammer on the message to the university administration that since we pay for our energy, we must be given a building that produces energy and the ability to SELL it back to the university. Earn money for our department's needs. This building will most likely be there for a few centuries. Do not accept a mediocre project, we will be stuck with it for long time.

  33. Place electric car charging stations on each parking space around the building. For electrical cars, make parking there FREE. Prominently state this on the meter.

  34. To symbolize the union of two cities, build TWIN TOWERS. That is, build a tower on Illini Hall matching the bell tower on Altgeld Hall. (To match the towers, see the map above.)

    Should we call the new building the Neugelt Hall now? :) Alt-Neu, past-future...

    I'm not sure if we want bells in that tower, it maybe better to make it a quiet place. It could serve some other purpose. How about an observation deck in that tower? Call that tower The Illini Observation Tower, or something like that. A place to calm down, pray to scientific gods, and contemplate about math. Maybe even let visitors to enter from Wright Street and go up into the tower?

    Also, make nice lighting from inside the tower, similar to the one in the Altgeld Hall tower. (Use LED lightbulbs, of course. Point the light downwards, not up, to avoid light pollution of the sky.) The twin towers will look great together in the night. Especially looking from Green Street/Wright Street, and from the Alma Mater statue.

  35. Another possibility for the new Illini building: Make its base trapezoidal by skewing the west wall towards southwest. I think this would increase the average direct sunlight on that wall. Make that whole wall a giant solar panel. With windows in it for us humans.

    Maybe line up that southwest wall with the Arcade Building? (Zoom on the map to see.) It will look nice. Also slant that wall vertically if needed. (Confirm the optimal angle for sunlight with experts, for example New Prairie Construction Co. Solar in Urbana.) This skewed wall will also make The Math Garden more visible from John Street, see (36) and (37).

  36. The Office of Student Financial Aid is partially circular. (Zoom in on the map above to see.) The Turner Student Services Building is rectangular. If we make the base of our new building trapezoidal, that whole space becomes very mathematical. Keep the trees and benches, plant more trees and benches if needed, and call it "The Math Garden". Donors will love this name. Once again, expand the building, if needed, only towards Green Street, not towards the garden.

  37. Engrave the words "The Math Garden" into the skewed west/southwest wall of the building in large letters visible from John Street. Make it an iconic place. Make it an advertisement for our department, university, and mathematics. For further promotional impact, ask the guided tours to pass and stop near the building and The Math Garden on John Street. (See more on the garden in (40) below.)

  38. Keep pushing. Create and suggest a SUSTAINABLE and SOLAR building design even BEFORE talking to architects. Let your opinion be known, on campus and across the country. Write articles to newspapers, give interviews, inform your friends. Offer the university administration a great plan they will not be able to refuse.

  39. The trees in The Math Garden that are next to this building should be chosen so that they do not grow tall, to avoid blocking sunlight to the panels in the future. Trees on the other side of the Garden can be tall if needed.

  40. Create a GoFundMe, or any other funding website, for a new Illini Hall building. In the description, make this funding CONTINGENT upon two things: (a) naming the garden behind the new building "The Math Garden" AND (b) designing the new Illini Hall building with multiple solar panels from start. (Both are great educational opportunities and fulfill the University's mission.) Arrange it so that, if either one of the criteria is not met by the final project, the funds will be returned to the donors. Let the Department of Mathematics and the University administration know about this CONDITIONAL funding opportunity. Lest they name the garden something else.

    Can someone please actually set up a GoFundMe for this? And soon. And any other funding site. (I have neither expertise nor time for this.)

  41. Create and post your own design for the new Illini Hall building. Functional, efficient, beautiful, mathematical, solar. Maybe a design for "The Math Garden" as well? (Here are detailed instructions.) Let us all know about it.

  42. On the map above, have you seen many empty rooftops and walls? Make them solar too. Use our new solar Iliini Hall (when it comes) as a template.

  43. "Illini Hall" is a nice historical name. Please keep the same name for the new building. It is our heritage.