Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

April 18, 2002

MPAC: A look inside Pitt's first "green" building

Pitt is about to open its academic "greenhouse," with more than 150,000 gross square feet of energy-efficient offices, labs and classrooms.

Over the next few months, several Pitt academic units are expected to move into the new Multi-Purpose Academic Complex (MPAC), according to Facilities Management officials, who led the University Senate plant utilization and planning (PUP) committee on a tour last month.

Facilities Management architects William Heaton and Park Rankin, along with David Van Dusen, project superintendent for Turner construction company, showed off the new six-story facility.

According to Heaton, Pitt made efforts to make the building "as 'green' as possible," including using recycled material for all the carpeting and installing state-of-the-art motion detectors for the internal lighting system, presence sensors for thermostat control, and the latest electric, computer-wiring and insulation systems for maximum efficiency. Permanent recycling bins are located on every floor, he added.

The MPAC building is bordered by South Bouquet and Sennott streets and Oakland and Forbes avenues. The main academic entrance is on South Bouquet, with access to both stairs and elevators to the upper floors.

Pitt academic units will occupy floors 2-6. The 1st floor, currently being used as a loading and construction staging area, will be leased as retail space.

The main commercial entrance is on Forbes Avenue. The first floor can accommodate as many as four stores, Pitt officials said. Depending on the number of stores that agree to lease space, individual store entrances may be added to the Oakland Avenue side of the building. The retail loading dock will open on Bouquet Street.

Pitt officials said the University is negotiating with Panera Bread, a combination bakery-cafe, but that no final deal has been inked. They declined to specify other prospective tenants.

Short-term public parking — 20 surface spaces and 72 garage spaces — will be accessible from Sennott Street.

The College of Business Administration (CBA) is moving its administrative operation from Posvar Hall to MPAC's 2nd floor in May, according to CBA Associate Dean Edward Palascak. CBA admissions, advising and placement will occupy the 2nd floor, while CBA faculty offices will remain in Mervis Hall, Palascak said. Classes will be held in the new building beginning this fall.

The psychology department will be housed on floors 3 and 4, while computer science will move into floors 5 and 6.

Psychology currently is spread around the campus with offices and lab facilities in Langley Hall, Clapp Hall, Old Engineering Hall, the Bellefield Professional Building and Gardner Steel Conference Center.

The department expects to begin moving at the end of this month and to be moved in by the end of May, according to Anna Halechko, assistant department chair. "We're pleased that each lab was made to particular specifications," Halechko said. "For example, we have a lab studying infants and children and it has a changing table. And we have special sound-proof space for neuro-psychological testing. This customizing has added greatly to the level of support and enthusiasm for our move into the new building."

Those psychology faculty who have joint appointments at the Learning Research and Development Center will retain office space there, but have the opportunity of using departmental space in MPAC for teaching, consultation and research projects. There will be no research animals housed at MPAC.

Part of Pitt's School of Law will occupy 2,800 square feet on the 5th floor.

According to Susan McGregor, assistant dean for administration, the Civil Practice Clinic Program will be moving to MPAC in mid-June. Accommodations are being made for the program's clients, she said, who often schedule consultations after business hours. "A few spaces in the garage are being reserved for clients," McGregor said. "We also will be getting a computer system from the I.D. center that allows us to print out authorizations for clients to enter the building."

The space in the Law Building that will be vacated when the program moves across the street already has been spoken for, McGregor said. "Our information technology department and Professor [Alan] Meisel's health law program will be filling that space."

Robert Hoffman, director of operations for the Department of Computer Science, said his department should be all moved by June 15. The chemistry department will take over the space in Eberly Hall vacated by computer science.

"We're moving in stages, beginning as early as April 24, according to the most recent schedule," Hoffman said. "I'm particularly happy that we'll have our own top-of-the-line computer network."

According to architect Heaton, different units expressed different needs for their allotted space. "For example, business wanted the large [300-seat] lecture room, psychology wanted more research lab space," he said. "Computer science wanted hard-wired classrooms. The law clinic wanted more file-storage space. We tried to respond to each department's needs for space utilization."

PUP committee chair Atillio Favorini pointed out that consulting departments, especially faculty, on their needs was an important step in the process. "In my experience, it's a rarity for faculty to be consulted regarding construction projects. I'm glad to see it. It appears there was an effort to accommodate departments' needs.

"My only negative comment," Favorini said, "is that having another restaurant [such as Panera Bread] in the retail space doesn't seem to be responsive to students' expressed desires." Favorini said the PUP committee had conveyed students' suggestions to the University administration before construction of the building was approved. "Students, in fact, said that Oakland does not need another restaurant," he said, adding that suggestions ranged from a movie house, to an upscale clothing store to an alcohol-free entertainment center for student use late at night.

Rankin of Facilities Management responded that the University is seeking "a retail anchor that would have a year-round customer base. A lot of students leave for the summer, but [retailers] need sales year-round."

PUP committee member Jonathan Harris, a self-described skeptic, said the architects did a good job in executing the MPAC building.

Harris said, "I know I'm hard to please, and I think it works. It works as a new anchor to the campus, and it works as an integration with Bouquet Gardens," Pitt's undergraduate housing complex across Sennott Street from MPAC.

Jerome Wells, also of PUP, whose office is in Posvar Hall, said, "This building is light-years ahead of Posvar [Hall]. The building is quiet and there's lots of natural light."

According to Van Dusen of Turner construction, "A temporary occupancy permit will be given to Pitt for floors 2-6 as soon as the fire marshal finishes the final fire inspection. Pitt can begin moving in anytime after that. The permanent occupancy permit won't be issued until agreements are finalized with the stores going in on the first floor, and their [building specifications] are approved and all of their systems check out."

Fire inspection is expected to be completed this week, Van Dusen said.

Pennsylvania's Department of General Services kicked in $20 million for the building, which took more than two years to construct. Although final costs are not yet determined, Pitt is expected to pay about $9 million for construction and at least $1.2 million for furnishings and equipment, officials said. The University is putting all new furniture in the building.

Floors 2-6 of MPAC will be open 24 hours, but valid Pitt I.D.s will be required for entrance to the academic areas. A security desk is located inside the South Bouquet Street entrance. After business hours, authorized swipe cards will be needed to access the upper floors.

Pitt received final Pittsburgh City Council approval for the MPAC project in June 1999. Construction began in January 2000 with the demolition of the buildings on the site.

–Peter Hart

Leave a Reply