Williamstown, MA

Williams College Wachenheim Science Center


Responding to ongoing growth and advancements in the science fields, Williams College undertook a project to expand its science quad with two new additions. The Wachenheim Science Center replaces the Bronfman building to the northwest of the central Morley Science Center and provides research and teaching space for the college’s Geosciences, Psychology, Mathematics, and Statistics departments. SGH served as the structural engineer of record for the project.

SGH designed the structure featuring:

  • Cast-in-place concrete foundation walls extending up to 40 ft below grade on the sloped site, which helps maintain the mountain views from the science quad
  • A 4 ft thick mat slab designed to resist hydrostatic pressure from groundwater
  • A three-story, steel-framed superstructure for the above-grade levels housing classrooms, research laboratories, office spaces, and a mechanical penthouse
  • Round architecturally exposed HSS columns in student gathering spaces, including details to maintain the clean aesthetic:
    • Column transfers with connections and splices that fit within the ceiling depth
    • Moment connections at the round columns that transition to wide flange column stubs set within the ceiling depth to create prequalified beam-column moment connections and improved panel zone shear strength
  • Floor slab assemblies providing an uncoated two-hour fire rating for the laboratory chemical control areas, improved vibration performance for microscopy work, and flexibility for current and future floor penetrations typical of laboratory occupancies
  • Slab depressions created with dropped steel beams, bolsters, and supplemental deck support angles to accommodate a variety of floor coverings
  • A below-grade auditorium with transfer girders to create a column-free space and a sloping, stepped slab spanning to raker beams supported by concrete walls
  • At-grade exterior glass walkway that brings daylight into below-grade classrooms
  • A two-story pedestrian bridge and underground utility tunnel connecting to the Thompson Biology building and an underground tunnel

Project Summary



Completion Date


Project Size
New Construction
Payette Associates Inc.
Specialized Capabilities
Building Design

Key team members

Pedro Sifre
Pedro Sifre
Senior Principal
Michael Tecci
Michael Tecci
Associate Principal