Wellesley College

Finegold Alexander teams with Suffolk Construction on a case study for bringing Wellesley’s historic Severance Hall into a new era

Wellesley College Severance Hall | Feasibility Study
Wellesley College
Wellesley, Massachusetts

Wellesley College is embarking on an effort to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. Dubbed “E2040,” the plan aims to reduce campus GHG emissions by 90% by 2040. To achieve this drop in GHG, energy use by the campus’ buildings will need to be significantly reduced. One of the keys to this reduction determined in the Energy Master Plan involves changing from steam and high-temperature hot water for space heating on campus to a low-temperature water loop. Many of Wellesley’s buildings date from the early 20th century and are challenged for energy usage due to their mass masonry wall construction, original steel windows, slate roofs and complex gothic detailing, including inhabited roof stories.

Severance Hall, built in 1927, is part of Wellesley College’s iconic Tower Court complex. Finegold Alexander was engaged, together with Suffolk Construction, to study a range of options for Severance relative to energy use reduction. Additional study goals included addressing deferred maintenance, life safety, accessibility, and code concerns.

As a part of integrating Severance’s systems into a potential campus-wide low-temperature water loop for carbon neutrality, and together with Salas O’Brien, options for envelope upgrades were explored, and each energy conservation measure (ECM) was tested via energy modeling. Life-cycle costing of each ECM was completed. The energy conservation measures were also reviewed for their utility in addressing deferred maintenance issues such as water intrusion and occupant comfort issues.

Through the study process, it was determined that a combination of new insulated partitions constructed against the exterior walls, together with interior storm windows achieved the best payback. These ECMS allow for a decrease in size of new low-temperature radiation while also providing for greater occupant comfort.

In addition to the work relative to decarbonization, Finegold Alexander and Suffolk performed on-site investigations of existing conditions and reviewed facility condition assessments. We met with residential life stakeholders to determine program goals that could be met within the prescribed budget options, in coordination with the carbon neutrality and deferred maintenance initiatives.

55,975 SF

Envelope analysis for potential insulation and upgrades
Infrastructure renewal
Renovation and historic preservation

Feasibility study
Energy use analyses
Blueprint for further residence hall work


“Rebecca and Lara, you are always a joy to work with. You are both creative and practical, meeting the highest priorities of our competing needs. You are engaged and focused, accurate and competent. All while being personable and professional. A true pleasure to work with all of you.”

- Michelle Maheu
Director for Planning, Design and Construction | Wellesley College

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