WPI Foisie Innovation Studio; WPI Foisie Innovation Studio;

WPI Foisie Innovation Studio and Messenger Residence Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts

Integrating innovation with energy efficiency at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) was one of the first universities in the United States to promote a project-based curriculum. Arup and Gensler collaborated on the design of the Foisie Innovation Studio, a physical manifestation of WPI’s distinctive hands-on approach to STEM higher education.

Both the Foisie Innovation Studio and the Messenger Residence Hall are named for alumni who have generously supported the University and the unique curriculum of a WPI education. Built to inspire future generations of students, the facility’s active learning classrooms, workspaces, and lab create a collaborative environment for faculty, students, external partners, and the community, and increase the University’s potential for global impact. 

A personal touch

Several Arup staff members, including many who worked on the project, are actually WPI alumni. With that, it made it even more essential to get this collaborative, seminal space right. Initially considered as a renovation to an existing gym, the University quickly realised they had bigger aims for the building. While the gym went by the wayside, we retained the historic grotesques, fantastical carved stone figures on the outside of the building, to keep a connection to the original structure. Creating a building from the ground up involved other challenges, particularly because the new building is integrated with other adjacent buildings. The design team used this as an opportunity to solve some utility challenges for the surrounding buildings, including providing cooling. 

Project Summary

78,000ft² facility

140bedsof undergraduate housing


Thoughtful lighting design

The lighting design team crafted an integrated solution by optimising daylight and utilising an electric lighting system that uses a very low 0.48 W/ft2 lighting power density (a 56% reduction from the watts per square foot code baseline). The result is a highly efficient and stunning use of light and form that complements the architecture and creates an inspiring collaborative learning environment for the innovation studio.

Sustainability features

Targeting LEED Gold, the project team designed this campus hub for an almost 50% reduction in energy cost savings. We created an efficient building envelope design, for which the insulation exceeded the prescriptive code value. The project team also initially measured and verified energy and water consumption, and rolled out an occupant survey to assess indoor environmental quality. As a result, we designed for high indoor air quality through demand-controlled ventilation in the academic areas of the building, ducted fresh air in the dormitory, and implemented low-flow fixtures to reduce water consumption. 

In terms of outdoor water use, we’re tracking with a 54% reduction in potable water use from the baseline for the landscape. We selected plants with less water demand (limited turf, more ground cover) and primarily used drip irrigation as opposed to sprinklers, as sprinklers require more water. In terms of indoor water use, we’re tracking a 37% potable water use reduction from the baseline. We saved a considerable amount of water by using high efficiency air cooled chillers, which negate the need for water makeup. 

Material matters

We also selected healthy and environmentally conscious materials, including utilising items with low VOC content, recycled materials, local materials, and Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products. At project completion our materials tracked to about 70% local and 25% recyclable, and 80% of the construction and demolition waste was either recycled or diverted from landfill.