A Place to Learn, Collaborate and Study

A Place to Learn, Collaborate and Study

New Facility at Purdue may just become the Heart of Campus

By Nick Dmitrovich

Construction is well underway on Purdue University’s number one current capital project, the $79M Thomas S. and Harvey D. Wilmeth Active Learning Center (WALC). Once completed, the 164,000-square-foot Wilmeth Center will be the site of 27 collaborative active learning classrooms and will consolidate six engineering and science libraries. The center is expected to be a daily academic destination for 5,000 Purdue students and faculty.

The new center will blend and integrate centrally scheduled active learning classrooms, library/information services, formal study spaces, collaborative work areas and informal learning spaces. During the class day, 40 percent of the center will be library/study spaces that, at the end of the class day and throughout the evening, expand to nearly the entire building. This flexibility of classroom/study/learning space allows for greater building efficiency.

Dean of Libraries, James Mullins, said, “The new center encompasses the best of two worlds. It’s taking what is traditionally the library – and so there’ll be a large reading room into the library that will be very close and analogous to what may have thought about in the past as being the archetype of a library. But then at the same time we also know that there’s activity in the classroom that has to be supported, so what we did is we created study spaces adjacent and integral to the classrooms.”


The design of the classroom-to-study space conversion is intended to facilitate Purdue’s Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation (IMPACT) types of courses. In IMPACT classrooms, collaboration is fostered by allowing the space to fit the needs of instruction. For example, IMPACT classrooms have round tables and movable chairs and furniture to encourage teamwork and project-based learning. Students will have 24-hour access to the building, by using their student ID cards to gain entry.

“This facility will be a true living and learning community, inclusive of meeting and collaborative spaces,” said Purdue University Engineer Bob Olson.

The Active Learning Center will be located at the center of the West Lafayette campus just east of the Purdue Bell Tower and southeast of Hovde Hall, Purdue’s administration building. The center will anchor the east end of the Third Street Student Success Corridor on the site of the long-abandoned North Power Plant and the Engineering Administration Building, which were demolished by National Wrecking Company, of Chicago, before construction on the center began.

Tim Krueckeberg, Sr. Project Manager for the WALC project with Turner Construction, spoke about some of the challenges facing the company throughout construction on a busy campus.

He said, “One of the most interesting aspects of the WALC project is that the location is in the heart of a university campus bustling with nearly 40,000 students. Many hours of preplanning and coordination pertaining to safety and logistics were essential to the successful execution of this project. We’ve worked hard to minimize disruption of regular academic and business operations within the vicinity of the jobsite by carefully managing noise, vibration and traffic patterns. Additionally, just-in-time deliveries and prefabrication are essential facets of this project due to the limited lay down space available in this central campus location.”

Laying the Groundwork

During the initial phases of construction, Thatcher Foundations was contracted by National Wrecking Company to design, furnish and install a 1,000-foot wide earth retention system around what would become the foundation for the new building. To create this massive wall, Thatcher’s design included more than 150 externally braced soldier beams, 70 anchors, and over 20,000 square feet of lagging. More than 3,000 man-hours of work were performed on the foundation alone, and all were completed without a safety incident despite the fact that the crews were working in frozen January weather.

Thatcher was provided the opportunity to share its expertise with other contractors and Purdue University engineering students. Labor agreements for the area meant that Thatcher’s crew for the project included carpenters that had less experience with earth retention projects than a typical crew for the company, so Thatcher began each day with instruction and time for the crew members to ask questions.

20150309_123341Purdue active learning

Also, classes studying engineering and construction management had the opportunity to visit the jobsite and speak with crew leaders. This provided the students a view into the practical and applicative aspects of design and construction.

“Having the Purdue Construction Management students walk into the excavation and visit us at the jobsite was a real treat for our company,” said John Wysockey, Thatcher’s Vice President. “That’s something that doesn’t happen on many of our projects. The students asked some really good earth retention system questions, and I think we were able to give them a good sense of what it’s like to organize and manage a construction project that goes deep into the ground.”

This unique retention wall was one of the reasons Thatcher Foundations earned the Specialty Contractor of the Year award at the Construction Advancement Foundation’s 2015 awards banquet.

Enlightening Profile

After dusk, when the project is finally completed, the new center is expected to stand as the illuminated heart of the campus – which is kind of appropriate, considering it’s a brand new library at one of the most important universities in the state. One can certainly assume that future generations of Boilermakers studying within the new center will have memories of the new building for the rest of their lives.

Construction Partners for the Purdue University Active Learning Center Project

  • Construction Management – Turner Construction Company
  • Architectural and Engineering – BSA LifeStructures
  • Contractor (demolition phase) – National Wrecking Company
  • Contractor (utility make ready phase) – Mid States General and Mechanical Contracting Corp.

Foundation / Retention Wall Phase

  • Lead Foundation Contractor – Thatcher Foundations, Inc.
  • Contractors Steel – Foundation / Retention Wall
  • W. Conklin Steel – Foundation / Retention Wall
  • Rose Brick – Foundation / Retention Wall
  • The Schneider Corporation – Foundation / Retention Wall


  • Schneider Engineering – Surveying
  • SiteWorx – Excavating
  • Irving Materials – Concrete
  • Long Electric – Electrical
  • PSI USA – Environmental Testing
  • Colfax Corporation – Environmental Remediation
  • US Aggregates – Stone/Gravel
  • Findlay Drilling – Well Services
  • CPP Filter – Air Filtration
  • EJP Inc. – Storm Water Drain Protection
  • Midwest Rentals – Fencing and Storage
  • Highway Safety Services – Safety Signage and Barriers
  • J&J Williams Trucking – Hauling
  • Steves Equipment Services – Equipment Rental

Sources: Purdue, Thatcher Foundations, National Wrecking Co.

Timeline for the Thomas S. and Harvey D. Wilmeth Active Learning Center (WALC) Project:

  • WALC Design: April 2014 – April 2015
  • Utility Make Ready: May 2014 – September 2015
  • Demolition Existing Buildings / Install Earth Retention System: June 2014 – March 2015
  • WALC Construction: May 2015 – March 2017
  • WALC Occupancy: June 2017