Harvard University Massachusetts Hall

Cambridge, Massachusetts

CMTA was selected by Harvard University to complete a replacement and modernization of the MEP systems in their most prestigious building, Massachusetts Hall.

To say this building is rich with history would be an understatement. Built in 1720, which even predates the creation of the United States, Massachusetts Hall housed the Continental Army during the American Revolution and now serves as a dormitory for students, as well as senior level office space for the President and Provost of the University. Massachusetts Hall is officially recognized as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, highlighting it as a location that “possessed exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.”

The 22,000 square foot building was in desperate need of improvements. The existing MEP infrastructure was well beyond its useful life and did not provide a comfortable or energy-efficient environment for Harvard’s senior administration. The constant volume HVAC systems were too noisy within the Executive Board Room and other important offices. As a result, spaces required excessive precooling before meetings began, shutting off the system entirely when meetings were in session. This process, coupled with the aged systems, translated into an inefficient building with an EUI of 125.3.  

One of the most critical challenges of this project was to maintain the historical and architectural beauty of the building, while at the same time updating the engineering to the 21st century with efficient and quiet systems. The low floor-to-floor height and the historical significance of this building required innovation and creativity from the engineering team. The final solution CMTA implemented was an extremely low-velocity VAV system that integrated small vertical duct risers within the wall pilasters and millwork. The HVAC system design provided redundancies to minimize energy use/equipment degradation. The MEP upgrade also included a new elevator and new bathroom core throughout all levels. CMTA performed detailed planning and pre-purchase of long lead time items so that construction could be completed over the summer break of 2018 and not disturb university operations. 

Once the $13 million project concluded, the President and Provost of the University complimented CMTA on the swift completion of such a challenging project that was on a very tight schedule. The project received an ASHRAE Technology Award honorable mention in 2020 because of the innovative plan utilized within the historic building.