The John W. Olver Design Building was completed in January 2017

John W. Olver Design Building Quick Facts

  • On 10/27/2017, the building was named in honor of former U.S. Rep. John W. Olver who was instrumental in making this a showcase wood structure.
  • The Design Building is the shared home of the Building and Construction Technology program (in the Department of Environmental Conservation), the Department of Architecture, and the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.
  • It has four floors on 87,500 GSF and cost $52 million ($36 million for construction alone), and construction time was August 2015 – January 2017 (18 months). This project was supported by the MA State Legislature as a demonstration project for wood structures.
  • Its address is 551 N. Pleasant St. in Amherst, MA 01003.
  • WoodWorks case study (click to view)

    At its core, the Design Building has a contemporary, heavy-timber (“mass timber”) wood structure, consisting of an exposed glulam frame (columns, beams, braces), cross-laminated timber (CLT) and concrete composite floors, and CLT shaft walls (for stairs, elevator, and mechanical shafts). It also features a three-story, folded, grand CLT stair in the atrium.

  • The wood-concrete composite floor system uses technology that was researched right here at UMass by BCT.
  • The 70,000 ft3 of wood used in the Design Building grew in just six minutes (considering all of N. America’s forests). This growth process also removed (sequestered) 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, which is now permanently stored in the building. This is equivalent to taking 500 cars off the road for one year.
  • This building is the largest and most technologically advanced academic contemporary wood structure in the US. It is also the first in the US to use the wood-concrete composite floor system.
  • At the upper level, the building has a roof garden, which is supported by a long-span wood-steel truss system (a “zipper” truss) that is exposed in the atrium below.
  • Even before its completion, the Design Building was featured in an exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.
  • Besides the wood structure, this building’s other sustainability features are: LED lighting, motion sensors, ample daylighting, electro-tinting glass, heat-recovery systems, roof gardens, bioswales, rain gardens, low-flow faucets, public transportation access, and more.

Explore the John W. Olver Design Building

Project Videos:

We have collected construction timelapse videos and other video about the Design Building on this page.


Construction Photos:

You can find our large collection of construction and project images here.


Virtual Construction Site Visit:

We have an interactive 360-degree panorama virtual construction site visit tour right here.


John W. Olver Design Building in the Media / Awards

The UMass Design Building has received quite a bit of media attention. We maintain the current list of news items here. This page also features a list of all awards for the building.

About the John W. Olver Design Building

Since its completion in 2017, the John W. Olver Design Building has served as the home of the Building and Construction Technology (BCT) program, as well as the departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning (LARP). The building was designed by renowned Boston-based Architecture firm Leers Weinzapfel Associates (LWA).

On approximately 87,500 square feet, this building houses classrooms and studios, computer labs, lounges, meeting and teleconferencing rooms, a materials-testing lab, building science lab, wood shop, digital fabrication lab, outdoor work area, departmental admin, faculty and staff, graduate students, as well as a cafe, exhibit space, library, and function spaces. It also features a covered indoor commons on the first floor and an outdoor courtyard complete with green roof on the third floor. The image below shows the underlying wood structure.

During its inception, BCT had been working with the various structural, sustainability and energy consultants to make this building as sustainable as possible, given the project’s budget. For example, this building features a glue-laminated wood, cross-laminated timber (CLT) and wood-concrete composite structure (based on BCT research) that replaces the common steel/concrete construction type that is common in the area. This structural system reduces this building’s carbon footprint and maximizes the use of renewable materials. On the landscape side, the building showcases rainwater-control features like green roofs and bioswales. This building has since received USGBC’s LEED Gold (v.3) rating.

We are all excited to have the opportunity in this building to bring together design and research disciplines that encompass the entire range of the built environment which in turn enhances research, teaching and learning, and enables a collaborative approach to ideas and current issues.

Donation Opportunities

Are you or your company interested in supporting BCT in our new home? Talk to us about it. This building has many naming opportunities (classrooms, shops, labs, common areas, studios,…) and is a very targeted way for you to reach future builders, project managers, architects, landscape architects and regional planners. Contact Alex Schreyer, BCT Program Director if you would like to start a conversation about this.

Project Consultants

Project Gallery