Xavier University Alter Hall

From decline to destination.
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MSA Design has worked with Xavier University for over a decade.

Starting from an overall campus master plan in 2005, our team recently worked on the transformation of Alter Hall, which has become the most iconic building on campus today. Winner of numerous national awards, Alter Hall has become the new baseline for universities nationwide.


Constructed in 1960, Alter Hall was Xavier University’s state-of-the-art workhorse academic building; however, over time, it’s rigid classrooms and double-loaded corridors no longer supported contemporary learning. Originally, Alter Hall was planned to be renovated based on the 2005 master plan, but four years later, it was decided that a simple renovation would not meet the needs of the University and it was slated to be demolished and replaced. The project was therefore put on hold until it closed its doors in 2013.

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Alter Hall is the most used building on campus with over 10,000 students and staff using it on a daily basis. The constant use led to a considerable amount of wear and tear, unsustainable and high classroom utilization rates and dated infrastructure. Limited financial resources also proved to be a challenge for the design team.

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After meetings and engagement sessions with the Xavier University stakeholders and community, the design team came up with a strong plan for the project. A strategy emerged to transform the building by stripping it to its concrete structure, demolishing and reconstructing portions of its ends, and redeveloping it into a like-new academic building. Keys to its successful transformation included reusing existing infrastructure and developing effective, flexible interior spaces. The idea was to enable contemporary learning environment while creating a cohesive campus environment.

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Alter Hall, the center of the “campus crossroads”, has been completely reinvented as Xavier’s 21st Century academic classroom building. After completely gutting the building right down to its concrete columns and slabs, the University engaged a diverse group of stakeholders to lead and develop the final project. Teams of faculty, staff, administration, and students assembled to work directly with the architects, planners, engineers, and construction manager. Advisory committees with diverse composition were formed as subgroups to dive more deeply into various facets of technology, accessibility, sustainability, site design, MEP, interior design, and furniture. This collaborative approach enabled the team to intertwine a variety of stakeholder agendas into a common design strategy to help move Xavier’s national reputation of excellence and quality forward.

Alter Hall’s aggressive sustainability strategies exceed the University’s long-term climate action plan, resulting in the lowest energy consumption of all the buildings on campus. The project also creates a portfolio of flexible teaching and learning environments to accommodate a range of disciplines, curricula, and pedagogies. The result is a revitalized Alter Hall that is positioned to contribute to teaching and learning for a long time into the future.

Today Alter Hall is not just a place for students and faculty to attend or teach classes. It has become a “destination” where the Xavier University community likes to spend time outside of the required sessions. And that is a big measure of success in itself!

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Key Characteristics

  • Designed to LEED Gold Standard
  • Current energy utilization rate is almost half of the projected rate
  • 65% of the original structure was retained and reused in the transformation
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