Olver Design Building Wins National Design Innovation Award

John W. Olver Design Building

The John W. Olver Design Building has been named the Jury’s Choice for Wood Innovation in the WoodWorks 2018 Wood Design Awards, which celebrate excellence in wood building design across the U.S.

The most technologically advanced cross-laminated timber (CLT) building in the country, the Design Building opened in 2017 to house three academic units: the department of architecture, the Building and Construction Technology Program (BCT) and the department of landscape architecture and regional planning.

Built of CLT timber and glue-laminated columns, the 87,000-square-foot facility saves the equivalent of over 2,300 metric tons of carbon when compared to a traditional energy-intensive steel and concrete building. It is one of just two buildings in North America using CLT for wind and seismic resistance.

The building’s multi-disciplinary program, organized around an interior courtyard of exposed timber and an exterior landscaped courtyard and outdoor classroom, fosters collaboration across the disciplines. It intentionally features exposed structural elements and service systems for teaching, while its Trimble Technology Lab provides advanced tools for design research and development.

More than 160 buildings were nominated across 10 categories in the Wood Design competition. The award was made at the Central Florida Wood Solutions Fair in Orlando on Feb. 21.

Jennifer Cover, president and CEO of WoodWorks, said warmth, sustainability and cost are consistent reasons why design teams choose wood. “But comments this year also emphasized structural performance, the desire to create healthy, resilient and engaging structures, energy efficiency, meeting challenges of scale, and flexible spaces that can be adapted as needs change,” she said.

WoodWorks, a wood industry group that includes major North American wood associations, government agencies and others, featured the Design Building in an illustrated case study published in January. It is available as a PDF online here.

The Wall Street Journal named the Design Building one of the best new buildings of 2017.

Earlier this month, it was named the U.S. Building of the Year in a national online poll conducted by American-Architects. Details are online here.

In November, the building was honored with an Award of Merit in the Engineering News-Record (ENR) list of New England’s 2017 Best Projects in the Higher Education / Research category.

The Design Building is named for former congressman and UMass Amherst chemistry professor John Olver.

Inspired by the work of Peggi L. Clouston, associate professor of environmental conservation, Olver helped persuade campus officials to adopt the new and innovative technology when the building was still a proposal. He also secured additional state funding based on the fact that the building would be an important demonstration project for mass timber in the region.

The building was designed by Boston architecural firm Leers Weinzapfel.

The BCT program developed some of the CLT technology used and has been testing native Massachusetts wood species for CLT suitability.