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Sponsor Post: Wesleyan University Begins Construction on the Carbon Neutral Future with VHB


June 28, 2021

Established in 1831, Wesleyan University is situated on 360 historic acres in Middletown, CT.  Known for its world class liberal arts education, Wesleyan is in the midst of planning, and has commenced construction, on a multi-decade mission to become carbon neutral.

With a goal to be carbon free by 2050, Wesleyan has partnered with VHB for engineering experience and assistance with their revitalization efforts, including incorporation of a new life science building, storm water management, housing and parking improvements, and a host of additional upgrades. VHB plays a crucial role in supporting Wesleyan’s forward-thinking Director of Construction and Campus Infrastructure, Alan Rubacha, and his team in the University’s carbon free initiative, providing a variety of engineering and surveying services.

Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University

Since Wesleyan embarked on their campus master plan program in 1998, VHB has remained committed to the University’s development plans and sustainability efforts, offering an integrated services approach, which includes field surveying on all campus projects, site and civil design, transportation planning, parking analysis, local and state permitting, and a master plan of the utility system— which is comprised of medium voltage, gas, fiber and copper telecommunications, sanitation, chilled water, hot water, steam, condensate and fuel line systems.

Additionally, VHB has served as an integral team member on several projects at the University, with some of the more notable being the addition to the Freeman Athletic Center, stormwater management and drainage repairs, carbon free heating system upgrades, and the design and development of a new science building. VHB also played a key role supporting the University as it completed the first Microgrid in Connecticut, celebrated by the Governor of Connecticut in a 2014 ribbon cutting ceremony.

Freeman Athletic Center

With Wesleyan’s strong commitment to and pride in their athletic programs, with two alumni who served as head coaches in the NFL, the school embarked on a 65,000-square-foot addition to their athletic center. VHB partnered with the school, providing civil and traffic engineering, while also supporting the permitting for the project—including a zone code amendment, changing the University’s parking requirements for future projects, and the abandonment of a city street. The expansion relocated the basketball, squash, and volleyball programs from the academic center, placing all athletics under one roof.

The new facility houses one of Wesleyan’s reciprocating engine co-gen systems, supporting the mission critical role of Freeman as a FEMA distribution center for Middletown, providing power and waste heat onto the campus Microgrid.

Wesleyan University Freeman Athletic Center

Freeman Athletic Center, Wesleyan University

Storm Water Management

After a microburst quickly dropped six inches of rain at the school in 2016, the campus’s storm water drainage shortcomings were exposed. VHB worked with the University by conducting hydrologic and hydraulic analysis to identify deficiencies in the existing pipe systems, as well as opportunities for physical improvements.

Utility System Upgrade

As many historic campuses do, Wesleyan was reliant on an aged and inefficient steam distribution system to deliver heat to its campus buildings. Working with VHB, the University planned a phased approach to replace its steam and condensate distribution with a hot water distribution system. Phase 1 of this multi-phase project replaced a failed 1927 vintage steam pipe with efficient hot water piping, consisting of 1,900 feet of two 12-inch supply and return pipes that loop to the north side of campus. VHB assisted by identifying potential routes, considering existing utility conflicts, and impacts to the historic campus landscape. VHB’s design included plans and profiles of the hot water piping and restoration for disturbed areas. With Phase 1 of this project complete and in the ground, Phases 2 and 2A began this summer with completion scheduled for the fall.

Project team

Rod Szwelicki, PE, VHB | Alan Plotkin, ME, Wesleyan University | Alan Rubacha, Director of Construction and Campus Infrastructure, Wesleyan University


Phase 2a will extend the newly incorporated heating system to the new $255 million state-of-the-art science facility that will replace the existing science building. Supporting Wesleyan’s critically acclaimed science teaching and research programs, the new structure will boast a high-tech envelope, mechanical and electrical systems—yielding ultra-low energy consumption, further solidifying Wesleyan’s commitment to a carbon free future. The project is currently in the design development phase and could break ground as early as January 2023.

VHB is looking forward to the continued partnership with Wesleyan, as they continue to be an industry leader in their pledge to resiliency, sustainability, and modernization. If you would like to learn more about VHB or any of the projects mentioned, please contact Rod Szwelicki, PE, Land Development at

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