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Intramural Building


Can a building make people healthier?
Short answer: Yes.

The IM Building on the west side of Penn State’s University Park campus was constructed in the mid-1970s. A serviceable, windowless box, it accommodated intramural teams such as volleyball and basketball, your basic fitness activities including strength training, a teeny tiny indoor track, and some offices. Good, sweaty, heart-healthy fun was had inside, but from the outside you’d never know.

In fact, from the outside, it wasn’t immediately clear how you got inside. You could walk around for a while before you found the unobtrusive, below-grade front door.

A Literal Breath of Fresh Air

To respond to student demand and keep competitive with what similar universities were offering, Penn State leadership decided to revitalize and expand the IM Building in 2014. The vision added amenities (climbing and bouldering walls, an indoor turf field, squash courts, a reconfigured extended indoor track, classrooms for nutrition and health education) then went beyond, explicitly seeking to make the building more appealing and – literally – transparent so that it would serve to advertise the fun stuff happening inside.

Toward that end, the renovated building relocates fitness activities to the building’s perimeters for ready viewing through exterior walls that are, as much as possible, transparent. The experience for people on the inside is enhanced at the same time by a connection not only to natural light but to literal fresh air, the result of a hybrid ventilation system that opens windows and powers ceiling fans when the temperature allows. Students who see the automated system activating often ask how it works, affording the opportunity for a quick lesson in sustainable HVAC technology and energy conservation.

What Was Once Old is New Again...And Hard to Miss

In contrast to the forbidding exterior of the old building, the new one is configured in a criss-cross that draws people to a central courtyard. As for the front door, it is now at-grade and incorporates a well-lit lobby, making it easy to enter and hard to miss.

Reese-Hackman provided mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and low voltage system design services for the LEED-certified three-phase project, which was completed in 2018.

Can a building be so attractive, so welcoming, it all but compels people to come inside and get some exercise?

Penn State’s renovated and re-energized IM Building is the answer: Absolutely!