New Science Center

Architect: Payette

Owner: Amherst College

Location: Amherst, Massachusetts

Project site: Brownfield

Building program type(s): Education – College/University (campus-level), Laboratory

Integrated, performance-based thinking guided major architectural decisions including the customized skylights running the length of the building. Sinuous roof monitors not only animate the roofline and improve daylight quality, but also serve multiple functional roles.

The Amherst College New Science Center provides state-of-the-art facilities and a flexible space to support the college’s science programs and students through the next century while reducing energy usage by 76 percent compared with a typical research building. The New Science Center is sited at the east edge of the new Greenway landscape, connecting the sciences to the rest of the Massachusetts campus. The building is organized around “the Commons,” a dramatic multistory atrium. The Commons creates a community of science through the five forms that make up the building: two four-story energy-intensive laboratory wings tucked into the east edge of the sloping site and three two- to three-story pavilions of low-intensity programming set in the landscape to the west, facing campus. A roof that floats above the Commons unifies the building while also providing a quiet visual datum for the undulating Pelham Hills beyond. An array of skylight monitors animate the roof, further signifying the building’s scientific purpose and its commitment to sustainable performance. The Commons’ roof monitors integrate architectural and mechanical elements that provide an overall comfort conditioning solution: chilled beams, radiant slabs, acoustic baffles, and a photovoltaic array. A central gap between the laboratory wings at one end of the Commons offers views to the east, drawing nature into the building. It also serves as a circulation nexus with an interior stormwater feature, fostering strong biophilic connections. The Greenway’s new surrounding landscape, when met with the transparent, west-facing glass façade, provides the Commons with remarkable views of native ecology, blurring the edges of the central living room and the outdoors. In turn, the gathering space feel like an extension of the outdoors.

"Everything from solar to water to lighting are integrated in to the building creating the strategic separation of ventilation and space conditioning. " -Jury statement

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2015

Year of substantial project completion: 2018

Gross conditioned floor area: 251,000 sq ft

Gross unconditioned floor area: 0 sq ft

Number of stories: 6

Project Climate Zone: ASHRAE 5A

Annual hours of operation: 8760

Site area: 522, 922 sq ft

Project site context/setting: rural

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: n/a

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 1,380

Project Team

AV/Vibration/Sound Consultant: Acentech

Code Consultant: Code Red

Engineer – Civil: Nitsch Engineering

Engineer - MEP: Van Zelm, Heywood & Shadford, Inc.

Engineer - Structural: LeMessurier

Envelope and Waterproofing Consultant: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

Façade Consultant: Studio NYL

General Contractor: Barr & Barr

Graphics: SurfaceMatter Design

IT and Security Consultant: BVH

Landscape Architect: Michael van Valkenburgh Associates  

Lighting Design: Available Light

Sustainability Consultants: Integral Group


Nancy Clanton, Clanton & Associates

Paul Mankins, FAIA, Substance Architecture

Christiana Moss, AIA, Studio Ma

Christoph Reinhart, MIT

Allison Williams, FAIA, AGWms_studio

Image credits

COTE Amherst College1_reduced

Chuck Choi

COTE Amherst College3_reduced

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COTE Amherst College5_reduced

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COTE Amherst College2_REDUCED

Chuck Choi