The demand for workers specializing in sustainable technology is growing rapidly, the president of Black Hawk College in Moline told a crowd gathered under a white tent at its Quad-Cities campus.

“We believe Black Hawk College is best suited to provide the education and training required to meet this demand,” Gene Gardner said, spurring applause.

With golden shovels in hand, Gardner and other dignitaries from Black Hawk College and the Quad-City region broke ground Tuesday on a $3.7 million construction project that will bring the first new free-standing building to the Moline campus in 40 years.

This one will be called the Sustainable Technologies Building, planned for an area next to Building 2 off 70th Street in Moline. The building is pegged for completion in April 2012. Classes there are expected to begin in summer and fall 2012.

College officials described the building’s design as cutting edge in technology and environmentally friendly practices, with plans for geothermal heating and cooling, an instructional wind turbine, green roof and other amenities.

The 13,000-square-foot space will house courses for a new materials science technician program, which will be the first two-year associate’s degree of its kind in the Quad-City region, said Michael Rivera, dean of instruction and student learning at the college.

He said someone who earns that degree could work in all sorts of engineering areas, with a specialization in working with materials such as metals, ceramics, polymers or glass.

The college’s new building also has led to the addition of three new one-year certificate programs: metallurgical technology, polymers and plastics technology and ceramics and glass technology, Rivera said.

Rose Campbell, executive vice president of the college, said plans for the addition started in 2008, when Black Hawk College revised its curriculum to include a certificate program in sustainable technologies. She was asked what she would do, if she had funding, to make the program better and she started sketching out dream plans for this addition, she said.

Campbell said she started holding discussions with the dean and faculty, and soon those discussions expanded to even more people in the industry and community. They started developing course work that would not only support business and industry, but also homeowners and small businesses looking to learn more about green building guidelines, home technology and energy auditing, wind systems and much more, she said.

Rivera added that this took a lot of work and collaboration on campus and beyond.

Moline Mayor Don Welveart and others said Black Hawk College is helping move the community and the country forward in work force development.

“I’m really, really excited,” said 18-year-old Mohammed Tazin, a sophomore at Black Hawk and vice president of the Student Government Association. “I’m an engineering major, so we’re looking forward to this. If I can take any classes in that new building, I will.”

Black Hawk College, which is in the midst of a presidential search, also runs a campus in Kewanee, Ill.