Holyoke Center, designed by Josep Lluis Sert and constructed between 1960 and 1965, had long stood as the hub of Harvard University’s administrative facilities. As part of Harvard’s 2013-2015 ‘Common Space’ initiatives, the 10-story building underwent a much-needed modernization and an intricate transformation to become Harvard’s new Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center, opening up new spaces to the community at large and integrating the university with the surrounding Harvard Square neighborhood.

Part of this renovation involved cleaning and restoring the exterior of the building. Unfortunately, it was difficult for Harvard to find temporary swing space for all of the occupants of the 10-story building, so administration, staff, faculty, and students, along with Harvard University’s Health Services facilities, needed to remain in the building while construction workers proceeded to repair the spalling concrete and window seals just outside their offices. Concerned that the work would generate excessive levels of noise that could disrupt the building’s occupants as well as others in the general vicinity, Harvard Planning & Project Management asked Acentech to help develop noise and vibration mitigation strategies that would reduce the adverse impacts within the building and at nearby noise-sensitive locations.

In order to evaluate the magnitude of noise and vibration impacts, Acentech placed real-time noise and vibration monitors, with over 40 microphone and vibration probes, at various noise- and vibration-sensitive locations inside the building; six environmental noise monitors were also placed offsite. To simulate the anticipated exterior renovation work, construction workers were asked to employ various wet and dry cleaning techniques that were evaluated on multiple characteristics, including their potential to generate intrusive noise levels. Acentech used remote monitoring during a two-week test period, during which 44 different cleaning methodologies were evaluated. Continuously-sampling noise monitors recorded and analyzed full-spectrum noise and vibration levels in while the exterior underwent a carefully controlled series of cleaning tests. Acentech then assigned a rating system to each test: from most disruptive to occupants of the building, to least disruptive. The work done by Acentech’s noise and vibration consultants allowed Harvard Planning & Project Management to plan and execute a successful renovation, resulting in the new Smith Campus Center, with a minimal impact on the occupants of the building.

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