Harvard's student center undergoes LEED renovation

Harvard's student center undergoes LEED renovation

Renderings via Hopkins Architects

Harvard University's "front door" is getting a makeover to boost energy efficiency and longevity for the high profile building.

Built in the 1960s as the Holyoke Center, the recently renamed Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center houses the university's information center and many student services offices. For years, the entrance could easily be overlooked on a busy Cambridge street. For many visitors, the center was their first impression of Harvard.

The building underwent two separate renovation projects. The first one tackled exterior problems to prolong the life of the building and give it a more prominent face to the community. The second project focused on two lower floors of the building to make them more useful to students and improve energy efficiency and other green aspects.

The architects will pursue LEED Gold certification for the renovated portions of the building. Glass walls were installed on the first and second floors to give an open feel to the building and allow in natural light, and visitors can view the back wall of the center from the entrance.

The building’s sustainable design includes systems for rainwater collection and reuse, a glass facade that maximizes energy efficiency, and the use of sustainable building materials. Greenery will cover some of the lobby walls.

The first floor will also feature an indoor courtyard enclosed by four glass walls. The courtyard, landscaped by Michael Van Valkenburgh, will feature plant species that are indigenous to New England, changing color with the four seasons.

The facade restoration project focused on long-term maintenance issues of the concrete and glass exterior while also restoring the visual quality of the original elevations with their colorful accents and tonal variations.

The project includes the repair of cracked and spalling concrete and damaged precast concrete; the cleaning of the concrete and the aluminum spandrels and fins; and sealant replacements.

Window repairs will include the replacement of solar films, the restoration of original architect Josep Lluis Sert’s colored "scale bars" and replacement of failed translucent panels. The project began in 2015 with completion slated for fall 2018.

On the interior project, Hopkins Architects and Bruner/Cott renovated 95,000 square feet and added on 2,943 square feet for the interior common spaces.

The project was designed to create a campus center that builds community with an emphasis on connectivity, transparency, and engagement with Harvard Square.

The project, located primarily on the two lower floors of the building, aims to provide flexible, accessible and sustainable spaces that permit a wide range of uses such as eating, gathering, meeting, studying, performing and exhibiting the arts.

The heart of the student center will include a large, open plan interior “living room,” as a companion to the exterior “living room” of Harvard Yard. It will also establish a welcoming and vibrant entrance to Harvard University for visitors, current and prospective Harvard affiliates and the Cambridge community.

Throughout the first floor, the project will host eight food venues. The University required that the restaurants sign green-building leases so their practices will align with the standards outlined in Harvard’s Sustainability Plan.

The project will result in a transformational improvement of the public realm, with enhanced amenities and unique spaces that do not exist elsewhere in Harvard Square. This project is also expected to be completed in fall 2018.

Topics: Architectural Firms, Certifications, Educational Buildings, Energy Saving Products, Interiors

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