South East Exterior Perspective

LEED Status
Spring 2019 - Fall 2020
UMass Project Manager
Cleve CarrensJeff Quackenbush 
Landscape Architect
Owner's Project Manager
Structural, Building Envelope, & Sustainability 
Thornton Tomasetti
Mechanical, Electrical, & Plumbing
Vanderweil Engineers

The Student Union building was designed by architect and UMass alumnus Louis Warren Ross in the modernist style, and completed in 1957. Located at the center of the UMass Amherst campus, it was the first campus building dedicated to student organizations and extracurricular activities. The facility contains shared common areas, a large ballroom, and dedicated offices for student organizations and other campus services. At the time of its construction, the Student Union was the largest building on campus, and served 4,800 students.

Today, the building supports over 30,000 students and 200 registered student organizations (RSOs). This growth necessitated renovations and infrastructure upgrades to accommodate modern space and service needs of the student body. In the summer of 2016, students and university administrators formed a task force to assess the building’s current conditions and develop a plan for its future. CannonDesign was hired to examine campus space for student activities, and produce a renovation study for the Student Union.

The $62 million renovation project was jointly funded by the University and a temporary increase in student fees. Designed by Shepley Bulfinch, the renovation revitalized the facility as a modern hub for student activity and interaction, and reconnected the building to its surrounding the natural landscape. As a “global campus living room,” the design embraces student entrepreneurship, organizations, and events to support collaboration, multidisciplinary learning, and leadership. The building opened in fall 2020, and was certified LEED Silver in 2022. 



  • A highly active “Main Street” style promenade, lined with retail, student services, and dining options
  • A dedicated media center serving the Massachusetts Daily Collegian newspaper, UVC-TV19 television channel, and WMUA radio station, positioned so that activity is visible from the exterior
  • A new entry and outdoor plaza, including a streamlined connection to the Lincoln Campus Center
  • Expanded student business space. New meeting, activity and assembly space
  • A new “black box” theater designed to provide additional on-campus performance and screening space
  • The original ballroom and Cape Cod Lounge will be repurposed into new, divisible, multipurpose areas for medium-sized assembly, functions, and events
  • The Student Organization Resource Center (SORC) will provide direction and assistance to visitors
  • Office, work, and shared conference room space
  • Dedicated storage lockers for RSOs
  • Updated mechanical, electrical and fire systems to meet modern building code and ADA accessibility standards



Indoor Air Quality

  • CO2 sensors ensure adequate fresh air is provided to densely occupied spaces
  • Additional designs provided to enhance indoor air quality in the building
  • Walk-off grilles in the main entryways prevent cross-contamination
  • Over 30% increase in outdoor air ventilation compared to minimum rates
  • Thermal comfort survey after occupancy will identify opportunities to further improve occupant comfort

Materials + Resources

  •  Aiming to divert over 75% of construction wastes from landfill
  •  Building materials contain recycled content and were extracted, processed, and manufactured regionally
  •  Wood products are sustainable harvested and certified by Forest Stewardship Council
  •  Low-emitting materials, such as zero-VOC paints, used during construction ensure a healthy living environment
  •  Heat reflective 

Innovation in Design

  •  Green Housekeeping Program in place to provide clean, green and virus-free environment
  •  Active green building public education programs
  •  Use of the building as a teaching tool


  •  Maximize daylighting
    • Most open office spaces are along the windows
    • Developed a ceiling profile that allowed use of the full height of the windows
    • Glazing to maximize borrowed light and extend views
  •  High Quality Low Mercury Fixtures
    •  75% of all fixtures are LED
    •  Light sources have a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of 80 or higher
    •  Rated life of at least 24,000 hours
  •  Lighting Control
    •  90% of individual occupant spaces have individual lighting controls with 3 lighting levels
    •  Daylight, overhead direct/indirect, task
    •  All multi-occupant spaces have multi-zone lighting control
    •  Occupancy Sensors
    •  Daylight harvesting in key areas:
    •  Living Room and Main Street

Water Reduction

  •  Water management was a specific University priority.
  •  Outdoor water reduction: 30% below baseline
    •  No outdoor irrigation
    •  Indoor water reduction: 45% below baseline
    •  Automatic Flushometers: 1.28 gpf/4.8 lpf
    •  Automatic Faucets: .5 gpm, 55 second cycle
    •  Building Level Water Submetering: Mechanical Systems; Student Businesses
  •  Reuse Water System

Waste Management

  •  Divert 50% -75% of total construction and demolition materials
  •  4 Material Streams
  •  Cardboard, Glass, Metals, Co-mingled
  •  University Priority

Optimized Energy Performance

  •   Zoned air handling with enthalpy
    •  AHU-1 – General Building Air
    •  AHU-2– Ballroom Air
    •  AHU-3 – Kitchens
  •  Rooftop Air Chiller
  •  Building Automation System (BAS) with Energy Demand Response integral with UMA’s Metasys load shed program
  •  Advanced Energy Metering
  •  All whole-building energy sources and any energy end use that represents 10% min of the total annual building consumption.

Materials + Resources

  •  Enhanced Systems Commissioning (3 pts) – RFS Engineering, MEP Systems CX
  •  Commission Plan
  •  Commissioning process activities for MEP systems and assemblies in accordance with ASHRAE Guidelines.
  •  Post Occupancy Building flush out in mid-December for 21.12 days
  •  Enhanced and Monitoring-Based Commissioning (4 pts)
  •  M&V is standard practice at UMA
  •  Rigorous list of points to be measured and evaluated to assess performance of energy- and water-consuming systems.
  •  Envelope Commissioning (2 pts) – Building Enclosure Associates, Envelope Cx
  •  Verify performance of the Union’s thermal envelope.








Click each photo below for an enlarged view. Images 1-5 courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries. Images 6-8 courtesy of Shepley Bulfinch.

Northeast Exterior Perspective

Northeast Exterior Perspective

Northwest Exterior Perspective

Northwest Exterior Perspective

Event Space

Event Space

Bowling Alley

Bowling Alley



Concept Diagram

Concept Diagram

Ellis Way

Ellis Way

North View

North View


 Student Union Referendum



Student Union Renovation Begins at UMass Amherst
College Planning & Management - 2/11/2019

Shepley Bulfinch Selected for the 108,000-Square-Foot, $55 Million Renovation of UMass Amherst Student Union Building
Boston Real Estate Times - 5/22/2018

Shepley Bulfinch Selected to Revitalize UMass Amherst Student Union Building
PRISM - 5/22/2018

Student Union Referendum Passed
UMass Amherst Student Government Association (SGA) - 1/19/2018

Students Approve Funding for Student Union Renovation
University of Massachusetts Amherst News & Media Relations - 12/12/2017

UMass Students Vote To Buy Themselves a $50 Million Student Union Renovation
MassLive - 12/8/2017

UMass Student Referendum To Determine Future Of Student Union
Amherst Wire - 12/1/2017

UMass Eyes Student Union Building Renovations
Amherst Bulletin - 11/8/2017

University of Massachusetts Amherst, UMass Student Union
Shepley Bulfinch

Student Union
Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries