Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s (WPI) new Sports and Recreation Center has garnered accolades, with its natatorium structural design acknowledged with an award by the Precast Concrete Institute (PCI) and the U.S. Green Building Certification Institute awarding LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Gold certification. 

PCI named the Sports and Recreation Center its 2013 Best Higher Education Building award winner. The 145,000-square-foot Sports and Recreation Center opened last year. In addition to providing WPI students, faculty, and staff with state-of-the art sports and fitness facilities, the center provides the university space for hosting regional and national robotics competitions as well as other non-sporting events such as admissions open houses, career fairs, and national academic conferences.

Development of the new center was part of WPI’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 the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification. The 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. 

Sustainability is a major focus for the university. Faculty members have incorporated sustainability into many student projects and focused on various aspects of sustainability around the world. In the year 2012 alone, some 51 energy-related projects were completed at WPI. Topics of these projects range from those with a social focus to highly technical investigations. Other recent highlights include the Solar Decathlon China 2013 and the Electric Power Industry Symposium.  

During the construction of this the center, WPI also capitalized on the opportunity to provide teaching and learning opportunities for engineering faculty and students. Civil and mechanical engineering students worked with the architects Cannon Design of Boston and the construction managers, Gilbane Building Co. of 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.
A major feature of the Sports and Recreation Center is the precast concrete natatorium structure housing a 25-meter competition swimming pool with spectator seating. The structure features five-piece precast concrete components spanning 110 feet across the pool. The five pieces include two column pieces, two corner pieces, and one center beam piece.  Precast concrete double-tees span between the bents and support the four-court gymnasium above. The steel-frame structure of the third-floor gymnasium is supported on the precast concrete natatorium structure. The natatorium structure is also integrated into other surrounding steel structures.