The following resources were developed by Facilities & Campus Services, in collaboration with the W.E.B. DuBois Library Digital Media Lab.



      1. SITE DESIGN
      5. RESTROOMS
      8. STUDIO – ROOM 480


LEED Certified Gold

View from North Pleasant Street

View from North Pleasant Street - Courtesy of Ryan Rendano

LEED Status
Designer / Architect
Leers Weinzapfel Associates
March 2015-January 2017
UMass Project Manager
Burt Ewart
Construction Manager
Suffolk Construction
Environmental Design
Consultants & Engineers
Atelier Ten

The $52 million, 87,500 S.F. Olver Design Building brings together the ArchitectureLandscape Architecture & Regional Planning, and Building & Construction Technology programs in one facility to promote interdisciplinary collaboration, research and learning. The goal was to create an innovative and inspired building that visibly demonstrates environmentally-sensitive design. The building’s unique cross-laminated timber (CLT) structural system reduces its carbon footprint and embodies the university’s strong commitment to sustainability.

The Design Building contains classrooms, administrative offices, studios, workshops, lab space, a café, gallery, and exhibit spaces-all organized around a central atrium. The rooftop public courtyard features native plant species and integrated seating. The project was completed in January 2017 and achieved LEED Gold Certification.


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The building is located at the primary vehicle arterial of campus, between North Pleasant Street and the historic Stockbridge Road. Through its careful site selection, the Design Building acts as an extension of the campus arts quad, connecting the Brutalist Fine Arts Center to the west, with the Studio Arts Building to the south. The Design Building is also flanked by Clark Hall to the north and Fernald Hall to the east, linking the arts and sciences.

The overall building form acts as a bridge, connecting the Fine Arts Center to the historic Stockbridge Way district. The massing begins on the east side as a three-story structure, reflecting the smaller, intimate scale of Fernald Hall and the Franklin Dining Commons. The form gradually rises and terminates in a four-story structure on the west side, embracing the Fine Arts Center across North Pleasant Street.


North Building Section

North Building Section - Courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel Associates



The Design Building’s site was originally a large asphalt parking lot. 150 existing parking spaces were displaced during construction. In exchange, over 100 new parking spaces were created east of French Hall as part of the project. Following underground site utility work, the remaining portion of the lot was repaired and restriped. The 65 parking spaces which remain are reserved for building users and adhere to the campus wide parking policy, with discounts available for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles.


Landscaping & Hardscaping

To minimize site maintenance, landscaped areas are planted with drought-tolerant, native species that can thrive without the aid of permanent irrigation systems. Light-colored roofing and hardscaping materials with a high solar reflectance index (SRI) were selected reduce heat island effects. A pedestrian-oriented paver design provides efficient mobility around the entire building. Together, the building’s compact footprint, hardy site vegetation, and reflective hardscaping surfaces all combine to maximize open green space.


Site Plan

Site Plan - Courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel Associates


Stormwater & Irrigation

Rainwater is collected on the roof of the Design Building and channeled off of the east side of the building into two sloped, linear channels called bioswales. The bioswales collect, cleanse, and infiltrate stormwater naturally onsite, as opposed to conventional underground sewer systems. The sides and bottom of the bioswales are lined with native vegetation, soil, and rock to filter stormwater and remove harmful pollutants from surface runoff.

Landscape Design Concept Sketch - Courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel Associates

Landscape Design Concept - Courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel Associates


After treatment, stormwater is diverted into large basins, which discharge runoff into sewers and waterways. This stormwater management strategy provides ideal growing conditions for trees, gardens, and other plants in the landscape.


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Walk – The Design Building is easily accessible through multiple means of campus and public transportation. Located near the southern edge of campus, the building is walkable to downtown Amherst and many core community services, including the Newman Center CaféFine Arts Center, and W.E.B. DuBois Library.

Bike RacksBike - Bicycle racks are located at the east and west main building entrances to promote alternative transportation and reduce dependency on motorized vehicle transport. Dedicated shower and changing facilities are provided on the first, second, and third floors of the building for students, faculty, and staff who bike to work.

PVTA Studio Arts Building Bus StopBus - Six Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) bus stops service eleven lines within a quarter mile walking distance of the site. The bus system provides over 200 stops near the Design Building every day.


Construction Waste

The construction manager and waste hauler tracked all waste diversion throughout construction, saving over 75% of debris from landfill. The project team implemented an indoor air quality (IAQ) plan during construction and before occupancy to ensure worker health, and protect absorptive building materials stored onsite. Air testing was conducted prior to occupancy to verify that proper IAQ procedures were followed throughout construction.

Timber Frame Structure

Timber Frame Structure - Courtesy of UMass BCT


Facade Design

The Design Building’s façade treatment draws inspiration from the surrounding regional context. The designers took a keen interest in Amherst’s traditional wooden tobacco barn structures as precedents. These vertical, slatted structures were a major influence on the fenestration patterns of the Design Building. Copper anodized aluminum panels offer an understated façade system similar in appearance to wood, with increased durability and minimal maintenance required.


West-facing Facade

West-facing Facade - Courtesy of UMass BCT


Much of the building’s first floor is intentionally kept exposed through a conventional aluminum curtain wall system with double insulated glazed units (IGUs). This approach exposes the internal timber structural elements and central atrium space, encouraging the public to enter and interact with the building. The entire exterior cladding system is non-combustible to provide building longevity and ensure occupant safety.

While the building is primarily timber frame, steel accounts for roughly 10% of all structural elements. The second story is cantilevered out several feet beyond the first, supported by a series of steel beams with wood cladding. The second, third, and fourth stories transition from the curtain wall to a panelized rainscreen system. Vertical copper anodized aluminum panels are affixed to the exterior metal wall studs via a fiberglass clip system. These clips create an internal channel, and allow the exterior panels to slide onto the structural system. The panels are interspersed with narrow, vertical expanses of glass.


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The Design Building’s central atrium functions as a shared gathering and event space for students, faculty, and staff. The space is designed for maximum flexibility, with integrated tiered seating, a large ceiling projector screen, and moveable partition boards which can be freely arranged for student critiques, exhibitions, and guest speakers. The west side of the atrium includes additional lounge seating, and is planned to house a future café.

Common facilities used by all three academic programs surround the atrium, including a student exhibition space, lecture hall, large classroom, digital fabrication laboratory, woodshop, paint room, and a materials research and testing laboratory for the BCT program.


A Tool For Learning

Wall and ceiling systems are designed to reveal the building’s internal heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and plumbing systems. Key elements are labeled and intentionally left exposed to serve as a teaching tool for students.



Mass Timber Structure

The building is defined by its unique mass timber structural system. From the project’s sustainability kickoff meeting in November 2013, the primary goal of was to prioritize environmentally beneficial impacts wherever feasible.

During the design development phase, a Life Cycle Assessment was developed by the WoodWorks organization to demonstrate the carbon footprint reduction potential of switching from a conventional concrete and steel structure to a mass timber. These efforts were primarily driven by the state’s desire to revive its outdated and ineffective timber industry, and to encourage the use of native timber to construct major institutional buildings. The Legislature asked that the building become a demonstration project for the use of mass timber, and appropriated $3 million towards that goal. Strong advocacy for mass timber construction also came from the Design Building users and faculty, most notably those from the BCT department who have researched, developed, and tested some of the innovative technologies used in the building.



The resulting structure was designed to reduce the building’s carbon footprint and exemplify the sustainable commitments and progressive thinking of the academic programs and university at large. The Design Building is currently the most technologically-advanced, contemporary mass timber building in the country, and largest timber frame structure in the Northeast. The building was exhibited at the National Building Museum’s feature installation on timber construction in 2017.

Exploded Axonometric Diagram

Exploded Axonometric Diagram - Courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel Associates


Sustainable Materials

Over 50% of the building’s wood products are sourced from sustainably-harvested forests and carry Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, including cross-laminated timbers, and glue-laminated wood columns, beams, and cross bracing. CLT panels are used as floor, roof, and sheer wall panels. Combined, the timber glulam and CLT structural systems sequestered over 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide, and have low embodied energy.

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Carbon Dioxide Sensors

Carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors are installed to ensure that adequate fresh air is provided to all densely occupied spaces. The sensors continually monitor CO2 levels based on occupancy patterns throughout the day, and adjust outdoor airflow rates accordingly to ventilate interior spaces. A thermal comfort survey will be administered to students, faculty, and staff who regularly use the building to assess indoor air quality and thermal comfort levels. If necessary, the building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems will be recalibrated to ensure user comfort.


Interior Shading Devices

Classrooms, lecture halls, and offices contain dual roller shade systems to allow occupants full control over natural light exposure. Spaces with dual shade systems integrate two different types of window coverings to provide both room darkening and ambient light control. Systems vary between manual and motorized depending on the space type.

The outer solar screen shade is comprised of a perforated, UV-resistant material designed to protect interior spaces from direct sunlight and glare. The solar screen mediates exposure and filters natural light into spaces, while still allowing views to the outdoors. The solid, inner blackout shade completely blocks out all daylight exposure when darkness is desired for conferences and presentations.


Audiovisual (A/V) Technologies

Lecture halls, classrooms, and conference rooms are equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual systems, including 4k resolution projectors, large flat screen monitors, speakers, and integrated cameras for lecture capture. These devices provide students and professors with a wide range of new opportunities for teaching and learning. The building is designed to accommodate both present and future technologies as A/V standards evolve.

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Restrooms - Courtesy of Ryan Rendano


Green Building Program

Building environments have a significant impact on human and environmental health, worker productivity, and overall sustainability. Based on extensive industry research focused on building maintenance and operations, technology and cleaning science, UMass Physical Plant Custodial Services has identified the best tools, products and practices for maintaining the Design Building that protect human health and the environment.

The UMass Green Cleaning Policy was published in 2011 and adheres to the LEED 2009 for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance standard. Compliance with this policy allows the university to minimize waste, utilize Green Seal-approved sustainable products, and maximize energy efficiency.


Indoor Water Consumption

Low-flow lavatory fixtures, including sensor-activated toilets, urinals, and lavatory faucets were selected to minimize indoor potable water consumption. One challenge the design team faced was understanding the building’s complex transient occupancy patterns, and calculating restroom fixture use for multiple user groups accessing specific fixtures. Installed fixtures exceed the minimum required savings of 20% for LEED accreditation, and demonstrate a potable water reduction approximately 34% below Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2003 standards.

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The second and third stories of the building encase the central atrium. Classrooms, offices, and conference rooms are located in the south and east wings of the building, with studios, computer labs, and research spaces on the north and west. Common areas with seating are interspersed throughout corridors to encourage interactions and collaboration between students and faculty from all three academic programs.


Zipper Truss System

The atrium’s unique, timber and steel composite zipper truss system is currently the world’s largest span of cross-laminated timber, and supports the rooftop courtyard above. A combination of advanced tension and compression members allows the truss to span approximately 40 feet of across the atrium, without any intermediary structural columns.



CLT Composite Floor System

The second, third, and fourth stories of the Design Building demonstrate the first use of a hybrid, cross-laminated timber floor system. The floor system is comprised of a CLT structural floor system at the base, topped with poured concrete over a layer of rigid foam board insulation.

Take a look inside of the secondary stair shafts located in the northwest and southeast corners of the building. These stairwells are comprised entirely of cross-laminated timber, as opposed to concrete and steel.


CLT Floor System

CLT Floor System - Courtesy of Ryan Rendano


Recycled Materials

10% of the building’s materials contain recycled content and were regionally extracted, processed, and manufactured. Low-emitting adhesives, sealants, paints, coating, and flooring systems are used on the interior, with minimal volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Occupants can recycle paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, and metal using the designated recycling receptacles located in office spaces, studios, and interspersed throughout common areas.

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Drip Irrigation

The rooftop courtyard is located on the third level, directly above the atrium commons. It serves as a social gathering area for students, professors, and visitors when weather permits. The gardens contain a variety of soil depths and plantings which were selected to mitigate heat island effects, promote biodiversity, and improve stormwater quality.

Rooftop vegetation utilizes a drip irrigation system, where water is withheld and gradually delivered to plants as needed. This irrigation method promotes plant health and reduces water consumption.


Daylight & Views

A strong visual connection between indoor and outdoor spaces promotes occupant wellness through daylight, views, and campus connectivity. During early spatial programming, careful attention was paid to the relationship of different space types and their adjacencies. All core program area, including offices and studios, is located with direct access to campus views. In total, 90% of regularly used spaces in the Design Building have access to exterior views and natural daylight.

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8. STUDIO - ROOM 480

Energy Overview

The energy savings achieved on this project are the result of a collaborative team effort based on integrated design meetings, iterative energy analysis and simulation, and project coordination throughout each design phase. Per LEED and Massachusetts Stretch Code standards, the building was required to meet a 20% energy cost savings improvement over the baseline design.

The built, optimized design well exceeds this target, and is anticipating a 50% reduction in energy use. The Design Building is predicted to have a total site energy use intensity (EUI) of 43 kBTU/SF/year, compared against an EUI of 62 kBTU/SF/year for the baseline design.

Integrated Design Strategies Diagram

Integrated Design Strategies Diagram - Courtesy of Atelier Ten, LLC.



The lighting design incorporates high efficiency fluorescent and LED light fixtures, and is targeting a 43% reduction in lighting power density compared to the interior lighting power allowance for a baseline building. In the majority of spaces, lighting operates using motion-based occupancy sensors. Perimeter spaces include daylight dimming controls, which automatically adjust artificial light levels based on natural daylight. Individual lighting and thermal comfort controls provide a wide range of adjustment for occupants.


Dynamic Glass

Due to the path of the sun, the south and west-facing facades of a building experience greater intensities of sunlight compared to the north and east. The Design Building features 2,500 S.F. of electrochromic glazing – a new, innovative “smart glass” system manufactured by View Dynamic Glass. The glazing is designed to address shading, minimize heating and cooling loads, and eliminate the maintenance implications of exterior aluminum louvered shading systems.

During manufacturing, five surface layers of microscopic film are applied to each pane of glass. Each layer corresponds to a glass tint state, and consists of a solid-state coating with nano-layers of metal oxides. Electrical bus bars are inserted in the long edges of the glass, which drive electromagnetic ions across the different layers of film. This generates small electrical charges, which prompt shifts between clear and tinted glass states.


Conference Room Electrochromic Glazing

Conference Room Electrochromic Glazing - Courtesy of UMass BCT


All tint states are designed to block different degrees of visual light transmission, while providing natural daylight. Each state is preprogrammed with different visual light transmission, UV blockage, and solar heat gain coefficients based on the Design Building’s location and solar orientation. As the sun travels from east to west, the glazing automatically adjusts the tint state for optimal internal conditions. Each façade is programmed to anticipate sun path and pre-tint 20 minutes before the sun reaches its face. The system changes its settings according to the season to account for a high solar angle of incidence during the summer, and low angle during winter.

The system is remotely monitored and controlled in real-time through the cloud by View Glass, using intelligent predictive controls. However, occupants always have full override control over these presets within the building. On the user side, windows can be controlled using a push button wall panel, dedicated mobile application, or by the Physical Plant through the BAS. Together, all of these features provide users with a high level of settings customization and control, down to each individual window in the system.


UMass Amherst Opens New Design Building with View Dynamic Glass


The electrochromic glazing requires very little power to operate. The windows are all wired in series, with an accessible controller located at every window for ease of maintenance and upkeep. In the event of a power outage, the electrochromic glazing will continue to operate using a backup uninterrupted power supply (UPS) system. Overall, the incorporation of electrochromic glass helped the Design Building to achieve a 23% reduction in peak cooling loads, along with glare reduction, increased thermal comfort, natural daylighting, and views to nature.


Fritted Glass

Large areas of continuous glazing contain a circular frit pattern, which is printed onto the window’s surface during manufacturing. This fritted glass behaves similarly to a perforated window shade, mitigating glare and solar heat gain issues, whilst providing exterior views and natural daylight.


Thank You For Visiting!

We hope you have enjoyed your green building tour of the Design Building. If you have any questions or feedback, please call Facilities & Campus Services at (413)-545-6401, or email info@facil.umass.edu. To learn more about sustainability efforts at UMass, visit us online at Sustainable UMass and Campus Planning. Come back to see us again soon!

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360° Virtual Tour

Take an immersive, 360° virtual tour of the Design Building, developed in collaboration with the W.E.B. DuBois Library Digital Media Lab. Click and drag to look around. Use the middle mouse button to zoom in and out, and click the directional markers to navigate between spaces. The tour is fully compatible with Google Cardboard and other mobile virtual reality headsets using the Google Street View app.

Green Building Brochure

Download an interactive green building brochure for the John W. Olver Design Building.

Photo Gallery

The Building & Construction Technology program maintains a large collection of images documenting the Design Building's construction.

Download an interactive building user manual for the John W. Olver Design Building.








UMass Amherst's Olver Design  Building Receives Architecture Institute's Highest Honor
UMass Amherst News & Media Relations - 5/28/2020

Boston Society of Architects 2018 Design Awards
Boston Real Estate times - 1/24/2019

Committee Explores Alternative Building Materials for Proposed Holyoke Middle Schools
Mass Live - 10/12/2018

What is New England Architecture?
The Architect's Newspaper - 9/19/2018

Mockups Help Students Understand Building Technologies
UMass Amherst News & Media Relations - 6/25/2018

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger is 2018 winner of Gold Engineering Excellence Award
Boston Real Estate Times - 6/21/2018

UMass Multi-Level Building Showcases Cutting Edge Timber Construction
The Daily Hampshire Gazette - 6/15/2018

UMass Amherst Surges in Rankings for Sustainable Universities, Moving up to No. 9 in Nation
UMass Amherst News & Media Relations - 6/8/2018

The Skyscrapers Of The Future Might Be Built Out Of Wood
Circa - 5/22/2018

SGH Honored With Two Engineering Awards
The Construction Specifier - 5/2/2018

John W. Olver Design Building
Architect - 4/10/2018

Designed To Inspire
Timber Trader News - 3/21/2018

WoodWorks Announces 2018 Wood Design Award Winners
PRISM - 3/2/2018

Olver Design Building Wins National Design Innovation Award
UMass Amherst News & Media Relations - 2/22/2018

UMass Design Building on Track for LEED Certification
Amherst Wire - 2/15/2018

America’s Building of the Year is Here: UMass’ Design Building
The Massachusetts Daily Collegian - 2/9/2018

John W. Olver Design Building Named Building of the Year in Online Poll
UMass Amherst News & Media Relations - 2/5/2018

UMass Amherst's John Olver Design Building Named U.S. Building of the Year by World-Architects
MassLive - 2/1/2018

Mass Timber Architecture School Wins U.S. Building of the Year
World-Architects - 2/1/2018

John W. Olver Design Building in Voting for 'Building of the Year'
UMass Amherst News & Media Relations - 1/18/2018

Industry Case Study Focuses on John W. Olver Design Building
UMass Amherst News & Media Relations - 1/12/2018

Campaign Underway to Bring John Olver Design Building at UMass Amherst Another Honor
MassLive - 1/4/2018

​Inspiration through Innovation - UMass Amherst Olver Design Building
WoodWorks Case Study - January 2018

Leers Weinzapfel Associates Designs the World's Largest Cross-Laminated Timber Academic Building
Metropolis - 1/3/2018

The Best Architecture of 2017: Buildings of Quiet Ambition
The Wall Street Journal - 12/11/2017

In Design Building at UMass Amherst, students learn by example
Design New England - 12/5/2017

Olver Design Building Earns Award of Merit
UMass Amherst News & Media Relations - 11/30/2017

Award of Merit Higher Education/Research: University of Massachusetts Amherst--Design Building
Engineering News-Record (ENR) New England - 11/20/2017

UMass Amherst Design Building Named for Former Congressman John Olver
MassLive - 10/30/2017

Design Building at UMass Amherst Named for Former U.S. Rep. John W. Olver
UMass Amherst News & Media Relations - 10/27/2017

Remnant To Whole
Landscape Architecture Magazine - October 2017

A New Teacher On Campus
Learning By Design - Fall 2017

Mass Timber - Inside the Graceful, Sustainable, and Breathtaking New Design Building
The Magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst - Fall 2017

Raising the roof with CLT
World Architecture News - 6/16/2017

University of Massachusetts Amherst Design Building / Leers Weinzapfel Associates
ArchDaily - 5/25/2017

Design Building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
World Architects - 5/22/2017

Leers Weinzapfel Completes America's First Cross-Laminated Timber Academic Building
Dezeen - 4/28/2017

UMass Amherst Completes Cross-laminated Timber Design Building for Architecture, other Programs
The Architect's Newspaper - 4/27/2017

UMass Amherst is Home to America’s First CLT Academic Building
Building Design + Construction - 4/26/2017

New Design Building Officially Opened
The Massachusetts Daily Collegian - 4/26/2017

Why UMass Amherst's Newest Building is Made Almost Entirely of Wood
The Boston Globe - 4/25/2017

UMass Celebrating Opening of Modern, All-Wood Building
22 News - 4/25/2017

UMass Opens New Design Building, Largest Modern Wood Structure in the Northeastern US
MassLive - 4/25/2017

UMass Design Building Showcases Potential for New Timber Product Industry in Massachusetts
MassLive - 4/5/2017

UMass Amherst Design Building Zipper Trusses
Architect Magazine - 3/2/2017

New Design Building, Renovations to Old Chapel and South College Completed
UMass News & Media Relations - 1/26/2017

Innovative UMass Design Building 'designed by designers for designers to teach design
MassLive - 10/16/2017

'Timber City' to Show Mass Timber's Potential for Construction, Job Creation
Architect Magazine - 8/4/2016

Leers Weinzapfel Associates designs timber multidisciplinary design building for UMass Amherst
The Architects Newspaper - 5/31/2016

New Integrated Design Building Incorporates Sustainability, Resilience and Aesthetic
The Massachusetts Daily Collegian - 4/4/2016

Wood construction resurges at UMass
Suffolk Construction Blog - 10/9/2015

The Design Building at UMass Amherst
UMass Building and Construction Technology

Design Building
Leers Weinzapfel Associates


Honors & Awards

Award of Excellence
The 2022 Education Facility Design Awards, AIA - 2022

Building of the Year
World-Architects - 2017

Most Innovative Project Award (less than $100 million)
Architectural Engineering Institute - 2017

Excellence in Structural Engineering Award (New Buildings $20 to $100 Million)
National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) - 2017

Awards of Merit for Structural Systems Design and Architectural Engineering Integration
Architectural Engineering Institute - 2017

Award of Merit, Higher Education/Research Category
Engineering News-Record (ENR) New England - 2017

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