From Renderings to Reality: Stratton Hall Renovation Nearly Complete as Facilities Dept. Enters Busy Summer

Energy Efficiency Upgrades Across Campus Ahead of A-Term 2024
LISTEN 09:02
Matt Burgos

With its striking, copper-clad elevator addition, restored brick façade, and classic-looking but modern and energy-efficient new windows, Stratton Hall’s big refresh is by far the most visible of several capital projects underway at WPI. But as the student population ebbs for the summer, improvements, repairs, and remodels are underway all over campus.

Stratton Hall



Stratton Hall, one of the university’s most active academic buildings, is nearing the end of a major, down-to-the-studs renovation and accessibility upgrade. The project has centered on a new four-story elevator addition that not only connects Stratton with the Laurie A. Leshin Global Project Center that abuts it and brings both buildings in line with modern accessibility standards, it also blends old and new architecture, pairing a stately brick façade with a sleek glass addition. 

Designers on the Stratton project, which will be completed on time and on budget, took care to balance aesthetics, durability, and cost effectiveness when choosing materials, including the copper cladding. Copper doesn’t require maintenance, and the cladding will likely outlast the building itself, noted Nick Palumbo, director of design and construction at WPI. He said the university realized additional savings by sourcing the flat stock copper material and having the contractor bend it into shape on site. The raw copper is made with between 90 and 99% recycled material, and more than three-quarters of it was sourced from within 500 miles of the Northeast-based manufacturing plant. 

The 32,000-square-foot building includes new classrooms, faculty offices, and space for graduate student teaching assistants. The area around Stratton is still a fenced-off construction site, but Palumbo said that inside, work is progressing quickly, truly from the top of the four-story structure to the bottom. Furniture installation—a good sign that any construction project is near completion—is underway; it started on the top floor, which houses faculty offices and meeting rooms, and will progress down to ground level as those floors are completed.

Along with the elevator, the fire-rating of new and existing interior stairways as part of the project had the bonus effect of allowing for the removal of bulky exterior fire escapes. Palumbo said the ramp down the banking from Boynton Hall will be restored to its original configuration, and the short staircase to the rear, second-floor entry into Stratton across from the Power House will include a ramp.

The renovation included upgraded lighting, heating and air conditioning, and upgrades to the roof that will allow for future installation of solar panels. New, energy-efficient insulation was installed in the attic and the walls when the interior was taken down to its bare frame. 



And around the building, the West Street walkway toward the fountain will re-open as work on Stratton winds down; the pavers were removed and cleaned, and will be reinstalled once the last pieces of construction equipment depart the site. 

Eric Beattie, vice president of campus planning and facilities at WPI, said Stratton, which opened in 1894, should be ready for classes at the start of A-term at the end of August; he said the goal is to have faculty back in the building, which houses most of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, by the beginning of August. 



Daniels Hall




Daniels Hall is in the second phase of a project, begun last year, to replace the residence hall’s bathrooms. Existing bathrooms on each floor have been converted into gender-inclusive units, each with restrooms and showers, Palumbo said. That means that students won’t have to go up or down a floor to use the facilities. 

Adam Heppe, director of facilities operations at WPI, said the windows at Daniels are also being replaced over the summer with new energy-efficient units. Projects related to energy efficiency upgrades across campus are part of WPI’s partnership with Harrison Street for the campus’ energy supply. The long-term utility agreement signed last year between the university and the investment management firm is expanding energy-conservation measures and advancing the university’s carbon reduction objective.  


Gateway Park I



Part of that sustainability push is replacing existing light bulbs with LED units—lots of them. And it’s not always as simple as removing the old one and screwing in a new one, Beattie noted; often the fixture needs to be upgraded or replaced to be able take advantage of the new technology. This summer, Gateway Park I at 60 Prescott St. is an area of focus. Around 1,500 lights are being replaced there, along with 450 in neighboring Gateway Park II, and several other buildings on campus are receiving similar upgrades. 

“Those upgrades have a really good payback economically,” said Nicole Luiz, manager of energy and sustainability. “It’s good to get them done.” 

Luiz said the combined savings from Gateway I and II is about 330,000 kWh, which equates to an estimated $55,000 annually.


Bartlett Center



As the home of the admissions and financial aid operation at WPI, the Bartlett Center is often a prospective student’s first exposure to campus, and this summer its lobby is getting a refresh, with new flooring, paint, lighting, and furniture. Don’t worry, the Lego model of the WPI campus hasn’t been disassembled into its more than 69,000 pieces—it has been moved to the Sports & Recreation Center. However, the 3D-printed goat that welcomed graduates walking out at Commencement will be on display in the Bartlett lobby, Palumbo said. 


South Village


South Village

With the closing of the South Village Student Center, some of the buildings’ amenities have been redistributed across campus. Heppe said the esports lounge, social lounge, and tech suites are now set up in the first floor of East Hall, and the popular YoKai and Costa Coffee vending machines have been moved to the lower level of the Rubin Campus Center, near the billiards tables. Recreation and workout equipment were relocated to the Sports & Recreation Center, and to accommodate students living at the South Village, residence hall kitchenettes have been reconfigured to provide more cooking options. 


Hammock Park



Hammocks are definitely a thing at WPI; it’s rare to not see someone lounging between two trees during the academic year. Palumbo said the new “park,” situated behind the Campus Center and consisting of a handful of poles in the grass, was a gift from the Class of 2022. Facilities oversaw the project in collaboration with University Advancement, and Palumbo said people who would like to use a hammock can sign one out at the Campus Center help desk. He added that a picnic table was installed in the area to improve accessibility for those who might not be able to use a hammock but want to enjoy the park.