Washington University in St. Louis Unveils Transformative Project Constructed by McCarthy Building Companies


Sustainability, flexibility and sophisticated technology guided construction of the 18-acre, multi-building assignment.

A sweeping campus planning, design and construction project has transformed the Danforth Campus of Washington University in St. Louis following a two-year construction process managed by McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.

The $360 million, 18-acre East End Transformation project adds five new buildings, expands the university’s world-class Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, relocates hundreds of surface parking spaces into a state-of-the-art underground parking garage, and creates an expansive new park.

As construction manager, McCarthy used sophisticated technology and 4D planning tools to manage the project’s eight separate project components. This involved synthesizing the work of multiple architects and coordinating an onsite team of construction specialists and trade professionals.

“We were honored to help Washington University reshape the East End of its Danforth Campus into a vibrant green space and a hub for research, teaching and student life,” said McCarthy Project Director Ryan Moss.

During the project’s site excavation phase, a drone captured high-resolution aerial images on daily 12-minute flights over the 18-acre site. These photographs—and accompanying data—guided the construction team in assessing progress and adapting the schedule accordingly. Drones continued to equip the team with valuable data throughout construction to ensure the fast-track project remained on schedule.

Nearly six acres of surface parking lots have been converted to green space, furthering the university’s commitment to sustainability. All of the new buildings have been designed to achieve LEED Gold certification; several are currently on track to exceed those standards. Resource conservation measures include solar arrays to generate electricity, and heat recovery chillers to harvest waste heat to minimize heat island effect. Other sustainable features include a bioretention rain garden and native plantings; an expansive indoor green wall in Weil Hall; and the Active Commuter Hub, which includes shower facilities for those opting to bike or walk to work.

Flexibility informed the design and construction of the underground parking garage, which can be converted into classrooms and labs to accommodate the university’s future needs and plan for a potential future less dependent on automobiles. To support this flexibility, the construction team laser scanned all post-tensioning cable, rebar and embedded MEP systems to capture precise data before concrete was poured on the garage deck. The facility, which has 790 spaces and a projected lifespan of 100-plus years, is on track to receive certification from Parksmart, the world’s only rating system designed to advance sustainable mobility through smarter parking design.

Connectedness with the city and community is achieved with a reimagined entrance to campus across the street from Forest Park, long considered one of the best urban public parks in the nation. The Tisch Park creates new outdoor programming opportunities for Washington University, and welcomes the St. Louis community from the northwestern edge of Forest Park. The Kemper Art Museum expansion also creates new opportunities for community engagement, with space for events and a more visible, welcoming presence.

“The project was truly a unique opportunity to honor our physical heritage and lay the foundation for our future,” said Henry S. Webber, the university’s executive vice chancellor and chief administrative officer. “These world-class facilities will support world-class teaching and research and the everyday activities of our faculty, students, staff and guests for many years.”

Major components of the east end transformation include:

  • The Ann and Andrew Tisch Parkserves as a welcoming entrance to campus and is a gathering place for the university community and visitors alike. 
  • The Gary M. Sumers Welcome Center(25,500 GSF) provides a clearly designated starting point for campus visitors and houses the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Student Financial Services. 
  • The Craig and Nancy Schnuck Pavilion(18,000 SF) houses the Parkside Café, the Environmental Studies program and the Office of Sustainability. It also supports pedestrian and bicycle commuters with shower facilities, lockers and bicycle parking. 
  • The underground garage serves the Danforth Campus and opens to the outdoors, offering views of both the sky and landscaped gardens. 
  • Henry A. and Elvira H. Jubel Hall (84,000 GSF) houses the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science in the McKelvey School of Engineering. 
  • James M. McKelvey, Sr. Hall (86,500 GSF),which will be completed in 2020 and open in 2021, will house the McKelvey School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science & Engineering. 
  • Anabeth and John Weil Hall (80,700 GSF)is the new main entry to the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. It houses graduate art and architecture studios, classrooms and a digital fabrication studio. 
  • TheMildred Lane Kemper Art Museum expansion (5,600 SF) includes a new 34-foot-tall polished stainless-steel facade, a new entrance foyer and additional exhibition space. The relocated Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Garden integrates the museum’s prominent collection of outdoor sculpture, including works by Auguste Rodin and Alexander Calder, into the expanded green space of the east end.

Watch a construction time lapse video.

View and download photos.

Project partners include:

Landscape Architect and Planner:
– Michael Vergason Landscape Architects

Planning and Design Firms:

– KieranTimberlake (Weil Hall, Sumers Welcome Center, Schnuck Pavilion, Kemper Art Museum

– Mackey Mitchell (Jubel Hall)

– Moore Ruble Yudell (Jubel Hall)

– Perkins Eastman (McKelvey Hall)

– BNIM (East End parking garage)


Washington University in St. Louis East End Transformation Facts and Stats

  • On-site construction workers, including over 3,100 trades professionals, have completed more than 1.1 million manhours of work so far.
  • Excavation of the East End construction site took less than 100 days. At the peak of excavation, more than 1,000 truckloads of dirt left campus each day.
  • 250 tons of steel are included in the Sumers Welcome Center and Schnuck Pavilion’s structures, while 510 tons of steel are included in Weil Hall’s structure.
  • The project added 48,718 square feet of new and future research space and 6,000 square feet of new makerspace.
  • 10 species of plants make up the 30-foot living green wall in Weil Hall’s Kuehner Court.
  • The new underground parking garage ceiling reaches up to 20 feet high, which will enable the facility to be converted to academic space in the future.
  • All new buildings are designed to achieve a minimum of LEED Gold 
  • The landscape replaces nearly six acres of parking lots with green spaces. When completed in 2020, the East End landscape will feature 390 trees of 38 different species. Ninety-four percent of the trees were grown regionally.
  • The Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Garden at the Kemper Art Museum includes seven outdoor sculptures. 

McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. is the oldest privately held national construction company in the country – with more than 150 years spent collaborating with partners to solve complex building challenges on behalf of its clients. More information about the company is available online at www.mccarthy.com or by following the company on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Instagram

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