John W. Olver Design Building Earns LEED Gold Certification

John W. Olver Design Building
John W. Olver Design Building
Design Building atrium
Design Building atrium

The John W. Olver Design Building, a showcase for best practices in sustainability and state-of-the-art wood construction technology, has been awarded LEED Gold certification.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification is an official recognition that a project complies with the requirements prescribed within the LEED rating systems as created and maintained by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.

Called the most technologically advanced cross-laminated timber (CLT) building in the country when it opened in 2017, the Design Building houses 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 more than 2,300 metric tons of carbon when compared to a traditional energy-intensive steel and concrete building.

The building’s multi-disciplinary layout, 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.

“The Olver building is remarkable for its innovative construction and sustainable design,” said Shane Conklin, associate vice chancellor for Facilities and Campus Services, “and its LEED Gold certification is confirmation of our commitment to responsible stewardship not only of our campus but of our environment.”

Marta Bouchard of Atelier Ten, the university’s sustainability consultant on the building, wrote: “This project’s LEED certification was incredibly successful thanks to the collaborative efforts of the entire team. The university’s commitments to sustainability were evident since the initial meetings in 2013 and the goal for high-performance design and operation has been unwavering through design, construction and continuing on today with building measurement and verification.”

Key building features for sustainability and LEED certification include:

  • Central to campus, the building is well situated on a walkable site with access to public transportation and promoting use of alternative transportation.   
  • The previously developed site and landscape was restored with more than 20 percent native vegetation and provides open space equal to the building footprint.
  • The intensive/extensive vegetated green roof combined with white TPO membrane roofing and light-colored hardscape (77 percent site area) mitigates heat island effects
  • Water efficient fixtures achieve a potable water reduction of 35 percent below EPAct 2003 standards.
  • Efficient drip irrigation system reduced potable water consumption by 66 percent compared to a typical irrigation system. 
  • Efficient HVAC systems, low-energy lighting design and controls, and a high-performance insulating envelope with electrochromic glass results in a predicted annual energy cost savings of 42.85 percent
  • The comprehensive commissioning efforts provided by the design team and owner, combined with ongoing measurement and verification efforts will ensure the building is operating efficiently and in accordance with all design objectives.
  • 88 percent of construction waste materials were diverted from landfill
  • 10.7 percent of the total building materials (by cost) was manufactured using recycled materials and 13.8 percent were regionally sourced. Unfortunately, the raw materials for the CLT was sourced just beyond the 500-mile radius.
  • A whopping 97.3 percent of the new wood was FSC-Certified, including 100 percent of the CLT.
  • In addition to designing for thermal comfort, indoor air quality is improved with CO2 sensors and associated HVAC controls in all densely occupied spaces.
  • 90.5 percent of all regularly occupied spaces have access to exterior views.

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

In July, the Building received a design excellence award from the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) for excellence in landscape architecture – general design.

In February, it was 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., and it was named U.S. Building of the Year in a national online poll conducted by American-Architects.

It also was honored with an Award of Merit in the Engineering News-Record (ENR) list of New England’s 2017 Best Projects.

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 architectural firm Leers Weinzapfel.

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