Today, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) officially dedicated its 145,000-square-foot, LEED-certified Sports and Recreation Center; one of the finest higher education athletic facilities in the Northeast and one of the greenest sports centers in the nation. In addition to providing WPI students, faculty, and staff with state-of-the art sports and fitness facilities, the new center also provides the university outstanding space for hosting regional and national robotics competitions, as well as such non-sporting such as admissions open houses, career fairs, and national academic conferences.
"On this day I am proud and very happy to officially open this beautiful and long-awaited Sports and Recreation Center—this outstanding and sustainable facility," said WPI President Dennis Berkey. "This project embodies the values that are at the core of the WPI experience. It's a collaborative space serving the whole student community, providing top-flight resources for our student athletes to reach the highest levels of performance and achievement. It truly is a new center for excellence.
"This will also be the home for myriad social and cultural events, and enhance a sense of community for WPI. The vision for this undertaking goes back to 2004, and the support of the Board of Trustees, donors, and a number of campus constituents made it happen. This center, along with a number of other green building projects on campus, will help build prestige for WPI and Worcester."
During the construction of this this building, WPI capitalized on the opportunity to provide teaching and learning opportunities for engineering faculty and students. Students of civil and mechanical engineering worked with the architects CannonDesign in Boston and the construction managers Gilbane Building Co. in Providence to enhance 3D Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, creating a system that integrates all design and construction data. The enhanced system enabled the designers and builders to make changes in HVAC plans and increase the height in the new robotics area, greatly improving its effectiveness and value.
Students are now working with the builders, IBM, and AutoCad, a manufacturer of 3D modeling software, to evolve the system to make maintenance operations more efficient now that construction is complete.
The new center now houses the following:
- An 11,000-square-foot fitness area with the latest fitness equipment
- A 29,000-square-foot, four-court gymnasium
- A competition length (25-meter) swimming pool and natatorium
- A three-lane elevated jogging track
- Racquetball and squash courts
- An eight-person rowing tank for crew training
- Multiple workout class studios
- A training and rehabilitation suite for varsity athletes, trainers, and coaching staff
- Offices, conference rooms, and support spaces for the athletics department
- Dedicated space for WPI's multifaceted robotics program
Development of the new center is part of the Institute's seven-year capital plan. In February 2007 the WPI Board of Trustees adopted a policy calling for all future buildings on campus to be environmentally friendly and designed to meet U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The sports and recreation center is WPI’s third LEED-certified building, after the Bartlett Center—home to the Admissions Office and the first LEED-certified building in Worcester—and East Hall, a residence hall built in 2008 that boasts Worcester's first living green roof and that received LEED Gold certification. The LEED standards cover several areas of construction and maintenance, including site sustainability, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design.
The center's pool water is preheated year round by 35 solar panels on the roof. By keeping the water pre-heated to 65 degrees, the center's boilers require far less fuel to bring the water temperature to the required 80 degrees. The roof also has a rainwater collection system that captures rain and stores the water in two 2,500-gallon tanks buried below WPI's quadrangle. The water will be used in the center’s cooling system, saving an estimated 800,000 gallons of fresh water every year.
WPI has a deep commitment to sustainability and to the local community. Many area contractors contributed to the construction and development of the project and almost a third of all construction expenditures went to subcontractors based in Worcester County. In addition, WPI paid more than $500,000 to the city of Worcester for building permits and various fees. Of the $38 million in construction contracts on the project, Worcester County contractors were qualified to bid on $19 million worth of the work and were awarded more than $13 million in contracts on the project.