Green Building to undergo renovations

Earth and Environment Pavilion to be added to the building

The Cecil and Ida Green Building (Building 54) is beginning a renovation process. The renovations will add 12,000 square feet of space intended to make the Green Building more accessible to students and community members.

Along with the addition of a new Earth and Environment Pavilion, the renovations will include upgrades to the lecture hall in room 54-100 (which will be renamed the Shell Auditorium) and will provide students meeting places and study areas.

The Green Building houses the earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences (EAPS) department. 

“The impact it will make, we hope, is much, much more than just the square footage,” EAPS Department Head Professor Robert van der Hilst said in an interview with The Tech. “It's really giving a completely new entrance and physical access to our department.”

After the renovations, the Green Building will contain not only the EAPS department, but also the Environmental Solutions Initiative and MIT’s joint program with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, with the intention of creating “central units for all sorts of new synergies and collaborative efforts,” van der Hilst said.

Currently, the EAPS department is selecting an architect for the project.

“Hopefully, this whole process of the architect selection and the design will all be done by early 2021,” van der Hilst said. “We hope that it will all be done by 2023,” which is also the 40th anniversary of the department.

The project will require $60 million in funding. Half of the funding goal was reached this past April, with contributions from donors including John H. Carlson; George Elbaum ’59; Fred A. Middleton Jr. ’71; Neil Pappalardo ’64; and oil and gas company Shell. Construction is expected to begin in 2021, with the hope that the renovations will be complete by 2023.

In response to the EAPS department accepting donations from and planning to rename 54-100 after Shell, a hack called Futility Island was placed on McDermott Court Sept. 22. Futility Island has since been taken down.

Using pipes taken from nearby art installation Futurity Island, presented by the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology, Futility Island depicts an oil spill in front of the Green Building. 

The sign in front of the hack read, “Futility Island is presented … to reestablish the conveniently downplayed association between the fossil fuel industry and the environment in which we live.”

“MIT’s continued collusion with the companies responsible for the desolation of our climate places the Institute's paltry efforts to mitigate environmental disaster on the precarious edge of futility,” the sign continued. 

Van der Hilst said that the renovations of the Green Building have been over 20 years in the making. “We have been talking about space improvements in this building since the mid-’90s, … and it always didn't go anywhere, mostly because there was not enough funding.”

Van der Hilst said that he hoped the renovations would allow students to see the research being done in climate and planetary sciences. “Those are really very exciting fields right now, and if you now pass the Green Building, you don't see any of that,” van der Hilst said. 

“Students will flow through this new space, and we hope that there will be a lot of people flux,” van der Hilst said. “We really hope that it will be kind of a central hub for all of MIT to come through and that they find it much more accessible to see the science we do, the research that we do, the amazing work we do.”