Green Wins

WPI Receives the Academy Award of Engineering

March 31, 2014
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On March 19, WPI was honored with two awards from the American Council of Engineering Companies at the ACEC/MA 2014 Engineering Excellence Awards gala.

Known in the industry as the Academy Awards of engineering, the ACEC presented a silver award honoring outstanding professional design for the university’s ground-breaking and innovative rooftop sports field and garage and bestowed a bronze award for its Laser Scanning for Future Planning project.

“This recognizes the innovative creativity that WPI has that goes beyond the classroom into practicing what you preach,” says Alfredo DiMauro, assistant vice president for facilities.

The field solved a dual challenge of creating more field space and more parking space on a land-locked urban campus. “We came up with a solution for a very challenging project,” says DiMauro.

The garage, with full-size softball and soccer fields (and within those, fields for lacrosse and field hockey) above and 527 parking spaces below, was the first of its kind in Massachusetts and is the second largest in New England, says DiMauro. And with that size, the university still had to make it unobtrusive and appealing to the surrounding residential neighborhood. “The neighbors were nervous, but then they saw that we did what we said we were going to do,” he says. Planting rows of 26-foot-tall evergreen trees along with flowering trees while also sparing two 250-year-old oak trees kept the space community friendly.

With its sheer size came some real engineering challenges, one of which was the runoff and drainage issues of removing quantities of water from the field so teams could play even in wet conditions. The fields are pitched to the sides, says DiMauro, and the perimeter has drainage around the sides.

Michael Bouchard, senior associate and project architect of Symmes Maini and McKee Associates, says he is pleased with the award, but even more thrilled with the final result.

“Whenever you are acknowledged by your professional community, it’s great,” he says. “But for the campus, the field defines that edge of the campus and helps to extend the athletic presence on campus, too.” As an architect and as part of the team, Bouchard says it’s rewarding to see such a benefit to the university community.

It’s a great use of space. It’s efficient but able to do lots of things.
Bouchard

WPI also earned a bronze award for a laser-scanning for future planning project conducted by Nitsch Engineering. The project used lasers for survey work on the West Street side of campus. Not only were the measurements quick and efficient (and therefore saved time and money), they also created a 3D model of the area in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of conventional survey methods, says DiMauro.

But even more important is that the students have opportunities they didn’t have before. DiMauro recalls one night when he emerged from the Rec Center after a meeting and saw hundreds of students tossing Frisbees around on the field. The image remains an indelible reminder of the joy the space brings to all students, whether they are playing official games on the fields or just having fun.

In separate awards last year, WPI’s Sports and Recreation Center was recognized by the Precast Concrete Institute as 2013’s Best Higher Education Building. The Illuminating Engineering Society recognized the Rec Center with an Energy and Environmental Design Award for its energy-saving lighting controls that adjust the indoor light use with the outside light coming in.

“With the parking garage and all the building projects we do,” says DiMauro, “the university’s creed of theory and practice is extended to everything we do.”

BY JULIA QUINN-SZCESUIL