The Wire @ WPI Online
VOLUME 13, NO. 2     NOVEMBER 2000

Campus center construction on target

The construction of WPI's new $17 million campus center is proceeding on schedule, with completion scheduled for early 2001, according to Todd MacCallum, project manager with Gilbane Building Company, who is representing WPI as owner's representative on the project. "We anticipate substantial completion by late January or early February, with a certificate of occupancy expected to be issued in late February or early March," he says. "Various WPI offices and student organizations should begin moving into the building soon after that, with an expected opening early in D-Term."

Construction began in the fall of 1999, as workers cleared the site bordered by Olin Hall, Higgins Laboratories, Alumni Gym and Higgins House, and dug the hole for the 70,000-square-foot structure's foundation. The foundation was poured during the winter, and work on the building's steelwork got under way in March.

MacCallum says 90 workers will be on site at the peak of construction; by the completion of the job, 35 separate subcontractors will have participated in the work. A number of those have been involved in the complicated process of building the campus center's exterior walls. "The walls are made up of four layers," MacCallum says. "We start by building a concrete block wall, or stud wall, with exterior grade drywall. We then coat the block with a trowel-on mastic and adhere a rubber waterproofing material over the drywall, forming a vapor barrier to the exterior. Insulation and the brick facade are installed over that.

"This construction method is designed to minimize the movement of moisture into the building. Excessive moisture in a building can promote the growth of mold and fungus in the ventilation systems, which can contribute to 'sick-building' syndrome. Each of the layers is applied by a different contractor, so coordinating their efforts has been a major challenge."

Most of the external walls have been finished in a red brick that harmonizes with the facades of nearby Olin Hall and Higgins Labs. The exception is the octagonal tower that will greet visitors entering from Reunion Plaza. Its walls will be faced in a limestone-based material that will give the effect of white granite and will contrast with the adjacent brick.

As the exterior nears completion, the focus of the construction work has turned to the interior, where two of the building's most distinctive spaces -- octagonal conference rooms located atop the building's two towers -- will take shape. One will offer striking views of Higgins House and its gardens and the steeple of First Baptist Church. The other, overlooking the Reunion Plaza fountain, will feature a ring of lights appearing to float below the room's peaked ceiling.

When it is completed, the campus center will house a food court, the campus bookstore and marketplace, the Student Life and Student Activities offices, the central mail facilities, and a host of meeting rooms, including a multipurpose room that will be the largest such space on campus.

For more on the building and to follow the construction on live Web cams, visit

Director appointed
James H. McLaughlin was recently appointed director, campus center and student activities. He spent the last 14 years at Plymouth State College in New Hampshire, where his responsibilities included overseeing the planning and construction of the $9 million, 70,000-square-foot College Union and Recreation Center, which opened in 1995. McLaughlin earned a bachelor's degree in sociology-history at Bridgewater State College and a master's degree in counseling at Fairfield University.

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Last modified: Dec 11, 2000, 15:57 EST