As early as 1913 the American University of Beirut recognized the need for engineering education in the Arab World; consequently, a program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science in Engineering was established in the Department of Engineering within the School of Arts and Sciences. Courses were offered in the field of civil engineering. By 1944, a sufficient number of additional courses had been added to permit the conferment of the degree of Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering.
A separate School of Engineering was established in 1951 under the Deanship of C. Ken Weidner. Four-year programs, after the freshman year, were initiated in civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and architectural engineering. A new building, donated by Stephen D. Bechtel and named the Bechtel Engineering Building, was constructed to house the School of Engineering. The building was inaugurated on April 16, 1954, under the auspices of his Excellency Mr. Camille N. Chamoun, President of the Lebanese Republic, and in the presence of Dr. Constantine Zurayk, Acting President of AUB, and Mr. Stephen Bechtel.
During the tenure of Dean C. Ken Weidner, the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture enrollment and laboratory facilities grew tremendously, and a power plant was built. The present university power plant initially was built for use by students in the departments of mechanical and electrical engineering, as well as to provide electric power and hot water to the Univers. During the same period three additional buildings were constructed mainly to house the shops (wood, metal, and welding), and laboratories for electrical and mechanical engineering. Sanitary Engineering and Hydraulic laboratories were built at this time and fully equipped. Most of the original laboratory and shop equipment were acquired through the persistent effort of Dean Weidner and the generosity of American and European donors.
In 1962 Raymond S. Ghosn, Professor of Architecture, was appointed to succeed Dean C. Ken Weidner. In 1963, a five-year program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Architecture was introduced, replacing the Bachelor of Architectural Engineering Program. In that same year the School was renamed the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture and was reorganized to comprise four departments: the Department of Architecture, and the Departments of Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering.
After the untimely death of Dean Raymond Ghosn on February 17, 1976, Professor Robert Sloane was appointed Acting Dean for a period of six months followed by six month rotating acting deanships from among the chairpersons of departments namely, the late Professors Thomas Bridgewood, Khosrof Yeramian and Edward Hope. In 1977 Professor Kanaan Kano was appointed Dean of the Faculty and he served until 1982 when the late Associate Professor Henri Madani took over as Acting Dean until 1986, the year Professor Nassir Sabah was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture. Dean Sabah served until 1999 when he was succeeded by Professor Mohamed Harajli as Acting Dean of the Faculty. In 2000 Professor Ibrahim Hajj was appointed as Dean of the Faculty. Dean Hajj served till 2010 when he was succeeded by Professor Fadl Moukalled as Acting Dean. In 2011 Professor Makram Suidan was appointed as Dean of the Faculty and he has been serving in this capacity up to the present.
An important aspect introduced into the program as early as 1952 was the establishment of a summer camp where all students of the Faculty, after completing the first year, spent ten weeks studying surveying and the use and operation of building construction equipment such as traxcavators, bulldozers, and road scrapers. Besides the academic benefits, the students had the opportunity to experience the conditions of community camp living by sleeping, eating, and studying under the same tents as their professors. The first camp site was created in 1954 and located in Zgharta; it was moved in 1958 to the grounds of Shwayfat National High School (Mr. Charles Saad). In 1960 a permanent camp set-up was established in Mazboud in the Chouf District. Due to changes in the engineering curriculum in 1970 the surveying course remained a requirement only for civil engineering majors. This resulted in the closure of the camp in 1970, since then the surveying course has been taught on the Main Campus. In 2006 the student branch of the Civil Engineering Society launched a pilot project for CEE students to volunteer one week during the summer for civil and community development work.
Surveying Camp - Bhamdoun Village, 1953
In 1986 the Electrical Engineering Department introduced a new program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Engineering – major Computer and Communications Engineering. In 1992 the Department of Architecture introduced a new four-year undergraduate degree program in graphic design. The department was then renamed as the Department of Architecture and Design. In 1995 the Department of Electrical Engineering was renamed the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Department of Civil Engineering was renamed the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In September 2009, a BS degree in chemical engineering was established and temporarily housed in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and a BS degree in construction engineering was introduced in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
At the graduate level, each of the three engineering departments offers a program leading to the Degree of Master of Engineering (ME). The first programs leading to master's degrees in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering were introduced in 1962. A graduate program in sanitary engineering was also introduced in 1962. In keeping with international trends, the program was renamed in 1973 as environmental engineering. A new interdepartmental graduate program leading to the degree of Master of Engineering Management was started in 1990. Master's degree programs in Urban Planning and Urban Design were introduced within the Department of Architecture and Design in 1998. PhD programs in all engineering departments were introduced in the fall of 2007.
The number of faculty members has increased from fourteen in 1952 to eighty full-time and sixty part-time faculty members in the fall of 2009. Over the same period the number of students has increased from about one hundred undergraduate students in 1951 to 1,700 undergraduates, 200 master’s, and 31 PhD students in the fall of 2009.
In May 2002, the first FEA Student Conference was held. Six well accomplished alumni were selected from nominations and invited to attend the conference, give plenary talks, and receive the FEA Outstanding Alumnus Award. Students presented papers and displayed posters describing their projects and work. The conference has become an annual event; it was opened to student applicants from outside AUB in 2008. An FEA Career Development Center (CDC) was established in 2002. It serves students, alumni, and companies, locally and internationally. It helps students find summer training internships, and jobs after graduation, as well as assisting qualified students find assistantships in graduate schools at top universities in the US, Canada, and in Europe. The CDC website is very well maintained and is continually upgraded and improved, and its database of companies, universities, students and alumni keeps expanding.
The FEA Information Technology (IT) Unit was established in 2001 to provide service to faculty and students for audio-visual, hardware and software computing support. A number of software packages have been developed by the IT Unit to automate: student and faculty records, student petitions, the FEA Career Development Center, and the Student Conference website. The IT Unit has developed a web-based paper submission and evaluation system and a Career Development Center web-based system that can compete with expensive commercial systems. The IT Unit interacts with CNS and the Registrar’s Office to continuously improve the service to the Faculty. The FEA has many established computer laboratories, including state-of–the-art high performance computer laboratories for teaching and research. The FEA continues to invest heavily in the latest technology for use in teaching and research.
Since the early 1990s a series of ambitious programs of renovation and construction have been undertaken. The fourth floor in the Bechtel Engineering Building was expanded and remodeled to house the engineering library and a new examination hall. A fifth floor was added to provide additional faculty offices and large classrooms. An existing structure in the shop area was remodeled to house the Environmental Engineering Research Center and a section was added to the Fluid Mechanics laboratory to house the Water Resources Center. An additional third floor was added on the western side of Wing B to house laboratories for control systems, communications and microprocessors, as well as computer laboratories. The Architecture Building was renovated with the addition of an extra floor to provide design studios and faculty offices to accommodate the Graphic Design Program.
In 2001 a new building, dedicated to the late Dean Raymond Ghosn, was completed and inaugurated on October 31st under the auspices of the Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafic Hariri represented by MP Bahia Hariri, and in the presence of AUB President John Waterbury, and other dignitaries.
Dean Raymond Ghosn Building - 2001
To accommodate the expansion of the FEA programs, especially with the introduction of the PhD programs and chemical engineering, a new engineering building to house state-of-the-art laboratories, lecture and meeting rooms, and offices for graduate students and faculty, is being constructed on the site of Wings B and C, which have been torn down. The new laboratory complex is being built with the help of a major gift from Dr. Ray Irani, the CEO and Chairman of Occidental Petroleum, an AUB alumnus; and a gift from Occidental Petroleum; as well as contributions from alumni and friends. The building will be called the Irani/Oxy Engineering Complex (IOEC). In 2006 The CCC Scientific Research Building was constructed with the help of a gift from the Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC). The CCC SRB houses the engineering laboratories that were located in Wings B and C, until the Irani/Oxy Engineering Complex is completed. The CCC Scientific Research Building will be used as a flex space while other buildings on campus are being renovated. Eventually it will be the home of interdisciplinary research programs in engineering and the sciences.
The CCC Scientific Research Building - 2006
Plans have also been drawn to renovate and reconfigure the Bechtel Engineering Building, the Raymond Ghosn Building, and the Dar Al-Handassah Shair and Partners Architecture Building in order to modernize all classrooms, offices, studios, and work spaces. A gift has been received from Dar Al-Handassah (Shair and Partners) to renovate the architecture building. A major gift has been received from Mr. Taha and H.E. Najib Mikati to renovate and house the Engineering and Science Library on the two lower floors in the Bechtel Building. The Frem family is donating funds to name the George Frem Manufacturing Floor in the Irani/Oxy Engineering Complex.
The Dar-AlHandassah (Shair & Partners) Architecture Building
FEA continues to receive gifts and donations from alumni, friends, and industry to provide scholarships, for both undergraduate and graduate students; to name classrooms, halls and offices in Engineering buildings; to support research and academic activities; to support FEA Career Development Center and the FEA student conference.
Donations for naming space in the Bechtel Engineering Building include: the Jassim Al-Qatami Engineering Lecture Hall, the Khatib & Alami “Milk Bar”, the Ramiz Rizk Conference Room, the Fehmi Karagulla Dean’s Wing, Ayman Taji Classroom, Rafic & Sharon Mansour Classroom, Faysal Urfali & Rima Jurdi Classroom, Mounir Boulus Classroom, Zuhair Boulus Classroom, and the ACC Classroom...
In the Irani/Oxy Engineering Complex donations for naming space include the Sami Sidawi Water Center Research Lab, the FEA Class of 1966 Reception Area, and the Class of 1964 donation to name the Ibrahim Hajj Computer-Aided Design Laboratory.
An architect’s picture of the Irani/Oxy Engineering Complex
Donations specifically to support academic programs include: The Munib & Angela Masri Institute of Energy & Natural Resources Endowment, The Zakhem Endowment to name the Dean of Engineering and Architecture, the Dar AlHandssah (Shair & Partners) Endowed Chair in Engineering, the Al-Kharafi Endowed Chair Professorship in Engineering, The Qatar Endowed Chair in Energy, the Dar AlHandassah (Shair & Partners) Endowment to support research, the Pierre Amine Gemayel PhD Endowment Fund, the Rathman Family Foundation PhD Fellowship, the Petrofac PhD Research Fellowship, the CCC PhD Fellowship, and the Petrofac Undergraduate Scholarship Fund for Chemical Engineering, and many other scholarship donations and gifts to support the academic programs .
Grants were received from the European Union to establish an information and communications lab, an energy lab, and a manufacturing lab. Intel Corp. donated a high-performance Intel Multicore Laboratory, Fujitsu-Siemens and Oracle donated a high-performance Information Research Laboratory.
The establishment of new graduate universities in the region, such as the King Abdallah University of Science and Technology, KAUST, in Saudi Arabia; and MASDAR in the United Arab Emirates are providing challenges and opportunities for the FEA. The challenge FEA currently faces is to establish centers of excellence in key areas of science and technology in order attract funding and be able to initiate collaborative research projects with researchers at these new universities, and with universities and companies nationally, regionally, and internationally.