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Topping off ceremony marks major milestone in UMass Chan construction project

Steel skeleton of new education and research building nears completion

Carrying the signatures of hundreds of community members, project leaders and members of Iron Workers Local 7, the ceremonial steel beam marking the “topping off” of the new education and research building under construction on the Worcester campus of UMass Chan Medical School was placed on Monday, Aug. 22.

After a brief noontime ceremony, the 407-foot-tall lattice boom crane, a feature of the construction site since March, lifted a beam to the highest point of the structure—184 feet above the concrete slab foundation—where members of Iron Workers Local 7 guided it into place. In all, 5,873 steel beams and columns form the skeleton of the building.

“The teaching and biomedical research that will occur in this building is critical to achieving our strategic goals,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “Groundbreaking discoveries in RNA biology and gene therapy for diseases like ALS, Tay Sachs, and Canavan disease have been made right here on this campus. Now we take an important symbolic step toward the promise of the next generation of discovery, breakthroughs and teaching that will take place in this new space.”

Other project leaders who spoke at the topping off ceremony include Barbara Kroncke, of the UMass Building Authority; Les Hiscoe of Shawmut Design and Construction, and Bryan Thorp of Architectural Resources Cambridge (ARC).

“The spark of discovery that UMass Chan Medical School fuels for its talented researchers drove us to design a building that will inspire exploration, encourage innovative thinking and support their work as leaders in scientific advancement,” said Thorpe, associate principal at ARC and senior project manager for ARC on the building project.

“Reaching the structural steel topping off on UMass Chan Medical School’s new education and research building is a pivotal milestone, as we begin to visualize what will soon become the future home to some of the world’s leading researchers and educators,” said Hiscoe, chief executive officer of Shawmut Design and Construction. “Never before has the definition of our purpose been so clear in a project—we’re creating a building that will contribute to extraordinary research and life-saving discoveries for generations to come.”

“I am honored to be here today with our partners from Shawmut and ARC,” said Kroncke, executive director of the UMass Building Authority. “We are fortunate to have a project team that is highly engaged and collaborative, working together to ensure that the goals and expectations of the Building Authority and the Medical School are being met: to deliver the project safely, on budget and on time.”

Structural steel for the building was fabricated by Beauce Atlas Inc. and erected by James F. Stearns Company with members of the Iron Workers Local 7.

The new nine-story building sits at the center of the campus, between the Aaron Lazare Research Building and the Albert Sherman Center. It will expand research space to accommodate more than 70 principal investigators and add educational and conference spaces to support the missions of all three graduate schools on campus.

The next phase of construction will be installation of the roof and the exterior “curtain wall” system of glass and steel panels. The goal is to have the building weather-tight by winter so interior work can begin.

Designed to achieve LEED Gold certification for energy efficiency and sustainability, the new 350,000 square foot building is scheduled to open in 2024.

For more information about the project visit