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Food for Thought: Creative Solutions for Campus Dining

May 28, 2021

Every year since 2016, the Princeton Review has ranked the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst number one in the nation for best campus food. Thanks to STV’s owner’s project management (OPM) expertise, a new building has recently opened that aspires to keep this campus streak going strong well into the future.

The University of Massachusetts Building Authority (UMBA) tasked STV with providing OPM services for the renovation of the Worcester Dining Commons. The project was a priority for the UMass system as part of UMBA’s capital project master plan.

“The original building was built in the mid-1950s. Since then there has been had a lot of additions,” said Bob Barton, P.E., CCM, LEED AP, MCPPO, project manager. “When the university wanted to develop a central kitchen, we determined that it was best to replace the building.”

When the project was in its infancy, STV served as the OPM for a detailed programming and schematic design study. The study found that a new building was the most economical option. The firm was then retained as the OPM for the construction of the new facility.

A key challenge for the university was maintaining operations at the existing dining facility while construction of the new building took place. The site was surrounded with fencing and wayfinding signage, and vehicular traffic was diverted to keep students, faculty and other campus visitors safe. 

Another project challenge entailed coordinating construction activities while minimizing impacts to nearby underground utilities. The new facility was constructed 400 feet from a campus research facility, directly over steam lines that serviced the building.  “The steam lines needed to be relocated without interrupting activities in the research building,” Barton said. “The construction team built temporary steam lines around the site while a new steam system was built in a concrete tunnel below.”

The completed Worcester Dining Commons has the capacity to serve 10,000 meals a day. It houses a ground-floor retail food café, a commercial bakery, a student center, and a restaurant.

“As the campus’ new flagship dining facility, we wanted to make sure it would meet all their needs for years to come,” Barton said.