Since the University of Massachusetts’ Old Chapel’s reopening in September of last year, the flagship campus’s newly renovated and restored building has received accolades and attention from the likes of the Boston Globe and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
More recently, over the Thanksgiving break, the Old Chapel was named by Engineering News-Record to be recognized as a “best renovation/restoration project.” The distinction was given to the building as part of ENR’s “New England 2017 Best Project,” a judged competition that showcases 24 projects in 15 categories. Other New England projects that earned awards included the new Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab in Boston, and UMass’ new Design Building.
According to their website, ENR reports on the top architecture and engineering firms, top construction companies and top projects in the U.S. and around the world. The process for judging the top projects in this competition involved five industry professionals and a safety specialist. The six individuals judged a total of 29 entries, all of which were buildings that had to be completed between May of 2016 and May of 2017.
“The building could have been torn down if they didn’t want to spend the money,” said one Best Projects Judge, who was impressed by the University’s interest in breathing new life into the building, according to ENR. “But instead they completed the historic restoration and now it’s in use.”
Along with ENR’s distinction, published on Nov. 21, the Old Chapel was also honored with a Massachusetts Historical Commission 2017 Historic Preservation Award on Nov. 2. According to UMass News and Media Relations, the Old Chapel was one of 11 projects honored in the 39th year of this awards program.
The Old Chapel’s $21-million renovations began in May 2015, according to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian; however, the building was closed to the public in 1997 due to structural problems. Now the space—with its new glass entry pavilion, lobby and multipurpose space—has been able to host events led by student organizations and UMass academic departments, including lectures, presentations and concerts.
“The multipurpose facility is currently code compliant. The building has state-of-the-art accessibility, security, technology and sustainability features. The interiors have flexible layouts that can be reconfigured,” stated ENR’s article.
Students on their way to class can also hear the building’s bells ring daily, a sound that hasn’t been heard regularly in nearly a decade.
Another ENR judge was impressed with the building’s renovation/restoration “team’s effort to study the original construction methods used for the roof to help with the slate installation,” as the team’s construction manager struggled to match the Old Chapel’s original slate.
ENR also detailed the building as certified LEED gold, meaning the Old Chapel “is designed to use about one-third of the amount of potable water and about one-fifth of the amount of energy compared with the water and energy used in buildings with traditional fixtures.”
According to UMass News and Media Relations, the firm who designed the restoration, Finegold Alexander Architects, was hired in part to demonstrate how the aspects of historic preservation and sustainability can work together.
“The firm deployed an array of sustainability strategies to maintain the integrity of the original design and materials, while adapting the building’s structure and interior to modern use, access and building code requirements,” stated the University’s release.
“The LEED Building program exemplifies our commitment to sustainable development principles by lowering carbon emissions associated with construction,” stated Shane Conklin, associate vice chancellor for facilities and campus services, “and demonstrates our focus on healthy, energy efficient, and durable construction.”
Jackson Cote can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @jackson_k_cote.