Construction, Renovation Projects Continue as Classes Resume

Old Chapel
Old Chapel
Physical Sciences Building
Physical Sciences Building
South College Academic Facility
South College Academic Facility
Solar panels on the Fine Arts Center.
Solar panels on the Fine Arts Center.
Isenberg School of Management addition.
Isenberg School of Management addition.

There’s a whole lot of building going on as the fall 2016 semester begins.

Some projects, like the renovation of Old Chapel, are winding down. Others, like the expansion of the Isenberg School of Management, are just beginning.

The new Physical Sciences Building is midway along, and the solar panels project, which will save the university millions on the cost of electricity in the coming decades, will be completed before winter.

All of the projects carry the promise of a better university, and at times may create inconvenience during construction, especially for pedestrians. Here’s a guide to the major projects visible around campus.

Further details can be found at the major capital projects section of the university’s Design and Construction Management website,

Old Chapel

The emotional heart of the campus, Old Chapel will be fully restored in October after two years of renovation. The chain link fences are coming down, low snow fences are being placed temporarily to protect new plantings, and the building’s graceful lines will be clearly visible again. The $21 million renovation will provide venues for events, including gallery displays, receptions and formal dinners.

The building was closed in 1996 because of the deterioration of its tower, which was restored using as many original stones as possible over the next three years. The building was added to the National register of historic places in 2015.

Among the most salient new features are an elevator and an accessible entranceway on the south side of the building.

Physical Sciences Building

The steel skeleton of the new 82,500-square-foot Physical Science Building is up, and the building is due to open in spring 2018, providing labs, lab support, and offices for 20 faculty (9 chemists and 11 physicists) and approximately 130 bench positions.

The site is bounded to the north by the Lederle Graduate Research Center, to the west by Goessmann, to the east by North Pleasant Street, and to the south by the proposed pedestrian walkway known as “Ellis Way.”

Special features include basement physics laboratories sitting on foundations that transmit very low levels of vibration.

Connection to the the building will enable the reconstructed West Experiment Station to become accessible on 2 of its 3 levels and increase its usable space by more than 50 percent. The structure will house offices for the physics faculty and graduate students, whose labs will be located in the Physical Science Building.

As part of its rehabilitation, original brick-and-sandstone façade of the old West Experiment Station, which was previously on a different part of the site, will be preserved to the extent possible.

Design Building

The Design Building has risen on North Pleasant Street on a state-of-the art frame of wood.

Set to open in spring 2017, the four-story, 87,200 square-foot showplace will house three academic programs from three separate colleges in a single facility: Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Department of Architecture from the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and the Building Construction Technology program from the College of Natural Sciences.  The total project cost is $52 million. 

The Design Building integrates the latest wood technologies, including a structural system consisting of exposed heavy engineered timber and cross-laminated timber (CLT) decking and shear walls. The exterior cladding incorporates a glazed curtain wall system and an aluminum panel rain-screen system. Exterior landscape consists of active rainwater detention basins and local stone elements that will extend into the building.

Sited next to the Studio Arts Building, the Design Building is intended to be a showcase of integrated design that is expressive of today's state-of-the-art building technology.

South College Academic Facility

This project renovates one of the oldest buildings on campus and adds 60,000 square feet of new construction to it.

The original multiple purposes of South College, which was built in 1885-86, are reflected on the exterior of the old portion. The south wing was three vertical “houses” of dormitories; the east wing originally contained a museum and classrooms; the tower contained faculty and administrative offices, as well as a meteorological observatory. Exterior masonry materials are local: Pelham granite, Longmeadow quarry brownstone and bricks from Montague City.

The four-story addition will include common areas, faculty offices, classrooms and auditoria with state-of-the-art audio-visual and communications systems. Both in mass and materials, the new construction is designed to complement the historic structure.

The $65 million project is due for completion in November or December, with occupancy in the spring. New, expansive sidewalks are already in place between South College and Thompson/Machmer.

Photovoltaic panel arrays

By the end of the year, there will be 15,576 new solar panels installed on campus to help provide cleaner, less expensive electrical power to the university in the challenging decades to come.

Installed and owned privately, the new arrays are expected to provide 5.5 megawatts (MW DC) of clean renewable electrical power at heavily discounted rates, saving the university $6.2 million over 20 years. The university will buy all of the electricity from the $16 million project for direct use on campus through a power purchasing agreement.

Most of the power ­will come from the combined 11.6 acres of arrays on steel canopies being built above parking lots at the Mullins Center and the North Residential Area. The canopies will resemble those already operating at the 192 kW AC prototype installation at the university’s Robsham Memorial Center for Visitors on Massachusetts Avenue. With a clearance of 13 feet, 6 inches, the canopies will allow shaded parking for cars and trucks.

There will also be six rooftop solar panel installations. Those on the Recreation Center, Computer Science Building, Police Station and Champions Center are completed. Work on the roof of the bus maintenance garage will begin soon.

The most visible rooftop installation will be on the south-facing slanted roof of the Fine Arts Center, which overlooks Haigis Mall and is seen by thousands every year. That work is underway with surface preparation.

Isenberg School of Management Addition and Renovation Project

Work is just beginning on the 68,000-square-foot addition to the Isenberg school of Management that is scheduled for completion in October 2018.

The project will expand the existing facility to include space for faculty and staff, an innovation center, learning commons and colloquium space, a simulated trading floor and limited renovation of existing spaces. 

The project area has been fenced off, blocking some walkways from North Pleasant Street to Haigis Mall and the Fine Arts Center bus stop.

Site preparations and utility wok is expected to be complete in January, with building construction beginning in March.

Parking Garage Renovations

A major upgrade to life safety systems and infrastructure at the Campus Parking Garage began in July and requires closing garage levels in a phased schedule through mid-November.

For a few more days, Levels 1-3 will remain closed, with entrance and exit via Level 4.

Level 1 will be open for Sept. 6, and Levels 2 and 3 will reopen that week as construction moves to Levels 5 and 6. The work on Levels 5 and 6 will take about six weeks.

Level 4 will be under construction, half at a time to maintain the exit, beginning on Sept. 19.

Garage entry and exit points will change depending on the schedule of work. Watch for signs on Campus Center Way indicating any temporary entrance detour; watch for signs inside the garage indicating any temporary exit route. Pedestrians should also use caution and be aware of any temporarily closed stairwells and detour routes inside the garage.

Morrill Courtyard Utilities Project

The Morrill Courtyard will remain closed until the project is completed around Nov. 1. This extensive project addresses structurally deficient manholes, deteriorated asbestos-insulated steam lines, and non-code compliant rails and accessibility deficiencies to the Morrill Buildings.

Sections of sidewalk on the east side of North Pleasant Street have been closed during the project. They are expected to reopen by the end of September.

The project includes steam system replacement including a walkable tunnel to improve future maintenance and protect the investment of the surface upgrades to the courtyard; a new tunnel exhaust fan system; electrical and telecom improvements; a new storm water management system; a water line addition and hazardous materials abatement

The project also includes surface and landscape improvements, including barrier-free accessible pathways to building entrances and courtyard space from North Pleasant Street; improved pedestrian flow as an eastern gateway from North Pleasant Street to the Stockbridge Corridor; larger and more functional gathering spaces and seating, and safer walkways and stairways.

Aesthetic enhancements included new plantings, green screens, and incorporation of boulder specimens from UMass Amherst geosciences.

Chiller Facility Upgrades Project

This project is an expansion of two regional chilled water facilities (Polymer and Integrated Science Building Chilled Water Plants) that serve multiple buildings on campus. The project will provide plant expansion, upgrades, new equipment, piping and connect six additional buildings to the system.

The 18-month project will replace the existing Polymer Science chiller plant, located on the west side of E-Lab II, with a new north chiller plant that will be capable of roughly triple the capacity of its current chilled water service. At the existing ISB chiller plant, this project will make improvements through additional equipment installed for reliability and redundancy.

In addition to air conditioning, chilled water service is also used for research-focused, process-related purposes. Whether to cool a laser, temper a chemical reaction or maintain strict environmental conditions, the consistent uninterruptible availability of chilled water is critical within a building where research-intensive activity occurs.

In addition, the building was designed and located in such a way to acknowledge the vision of the Campus Master Plan (issued in 2012) and the engineering “quadrant” it resides in.  When completed in fall 2017, the North Plant will provide a “visual learning” element to the engineering quad community, with perimeter glazing at ground level, showcasing a fully operational chiller plant facility.

Trenching and utility work will effectively close the North Service Road to through traffic. Access to the E-Lab II loading dock will remain open via Holdsworth Way in the south unless otherwise indicated. A pedestrian walkway will also remain open on the west side of E-Lab II. This portion of the project will remain under construction until August 2017.   

Other visible projects

Other, smaller projects will be visible and have an effect on pedestrian traffic this fall.

The Hasbrouck steam project will temporarily close a portion of the North Pleasant Street sidewalk in September.

The Library staging area between the W.E.B. Du Bois Library and the Campus Pond will be reduced in size, although it will be needed for the fall semester. All pedestrian paths in this area will be available.

Parking Lot 43, in the Northeast Residential Area, will be open after repaving. Expect fresh loam and seed around the edges.