Inside the graceful, sustainable, and breathtaking new Design Building.
When was the last time you entered a newly constructed academic building and deliberately inhaled it? “People are turning into column huggers,” smiles Alex Schreyer, UMass Amherst senior lecturer and program director of building and construction technology, who has witnessed more than one person enter the new Design Building’s central commons, dart a look around, then surreptitiously sniff one of the massive supporting columns.
Because the building is an unusual thing on a university campus—or, for that matter, anywhere: a modern, large-scale structure created primarily of wood.
The shared home of three academic units—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—creates a stunning sight line opposite the Fine Arts Center on North Pleasant Street. It is a four-story testimony to the viability of building with wood on this scale. “It’s really showing the way forward in new technology,” says Peggi Clouston, associate professor of building and construction technology. “We’re working to get architects, engineers, and builders educated about timber.”
The building itself is a marvel: at 87,000 square feet, it is the largest, most technologically advanced contemporary wood structure in the United States and the first mass-timber structure in the Northeast. It brings together cutting-edge building technologies—such as a zipper truss and a layered composite floor system of concrete, timber, and steel mesh developed by BCT faculty—into a symphony of space, light, sustainability, and community. Exposed building components turn the entire structure into a teaching tool.
We asked faculty and students who use the building to tell us which aspects they most adore.
Design Building Links
Video: Sustainable Design Building
Building & Construction Technology: The Design Building at UMass Amherst
UMass Design & Construction Management: Project Description
The Design Building construction and design team:
UMass Project Manager: Burt Ewart
Architecture: Andrea Leers FAIA, Leers Weinzapfel Associates
Landscape Design: Stephen Stimson ’83, Stimson Associates
Landscape Contractor: Stephen A. Roberts ’94, Stephen A. Roberts Landscaping
Construction Management: Suffolk Construction