Bringing Wilson Hall into the 21st century

Karen Kosky

When Wilson Hall construction preparations began in 1970, Fermilab was named National Accelerator Laboratory, the laboratory was operated for the United States Atomic Energy Commission, NAL and Brookhaven were neck and neck in a competition to become the first to achieve full design energy of 200 MeV in each institution’s linear accelerator, and a 1968 Triumph 250 CC motorcycle with 1,500 miles could be had for $450 through The Village Crier employee newsletter.

Fast forward almost 50 years, and the Central Laboratory Building is now Robert Rathbun Wilson Hall. The cost-saving measures employed by the team who designed and constructed Wilson Hall (in lieu of light switches, circuit breaker panels were originally used by staff to turn lights on and off!) have become hurdles to safety and energy efficiency. And supporting infrastructure (think underground stormwater pipe) has simply deteriorated.

Wilson Hall modernization has been, and will be, an important ongoing initiative to maintain the viability of this landmark building. Here’s a summary of some of the 2018 Wilson Hall modernization projects. And thanks for your patience with the parking (and dust and noise …).


  1. Cafeteria lighting

New lights and color panels in the Wilson Hall first-floor cafeteria dining area modernize the space, improve acoustics and lighting, and add energy and color to one of our most used collaboration spaces. The project was complete in May 2018.

The atrium cafeteria remodel was completed earlier this year.

  1. Parking lot

The Core Campus West parking lots are well beyond the end of their design life. Stormwater collects dangerously during heavy rainfalls, threatening to flood parked vehicles. The changes to the Kidney Pond lot at the far west side of the Core Campus West parking lots will realign parking spaces to maximize number of parked vehicles, alleviate some of the stormwater vulnerabilities, and begin to improve traffic and pedestrian safety. Parking in this lot should reopen in mid-October.

  1. 13th-floor remodel

The first “slab to slab” remodel in Wilson Hall’s almost 50 years, the 13th floor was designed to be a model for future whole-floor renovations. The project modernizes the way space in the workplace is used, including a mix of private and collaborative areas. The plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems are updated, including many innovative, flexible, and energy efficiency features. The finished spaces are clean and modern, setting the tone for the flagship LBNF project and the critical Neutrino Division groups. Occupants began moving in this month.

Wilson Hall's 13th-floor modernization serves as a model for future renovations. Image courtesy of Rhonda Merchut

Wilson Hall’s 13th-floor modernization serves as a model for future renovations. Image courtesy of Rhonda Merchut

  1. Ground-floor Creative Services and Global Services

The building standards established to modernize the 13th floor are being used throughout a phased remodel of two separate ground-floor office suites in Wilson Hall. In Phase 1, the Office of Communication’s Creative Services team moved into its new space across from the ground-floor machine shop just last week. For Phase 2, this week the final installment of 2018 modernization begins as the ground-floor northwest corner is deconstructed before reconstructing a new, modern, welcoming Global Services space for international and domestic users and visitors to first “land” at Fermilab.

The Creative Services office and studio were completed recently. Photo: Rhonda Merchut

The Creative Services office and studio were completed recently. Photo: Rhonda Merchut

FESS will continue to pursue and execute these and other important projects to help Wilson Hall stay as relevant, inspiring and stirring as it was almost 50 years ago, while also preparing for a new future for our core campus, which will carry us into the next 50 years.

Karen Kosky is the head of the Fermilab Facilities Engineering Services Section.