John W. Olver Design Building
Architect: Leers Weinzapfel Associates
Owner: University of Massachusetts Building Authority
Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
Project site: Previously developed land
Building program type(s): Education – College/University (campus-level)
Bringing together the previously dispersed Departments of Architecture, Building Construction Technology, and Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning, the John W. Olver Design Building fosters multidisciplinary collaboration and expressively integrates construction, landscape architecture, and building technology. It exemplifies the University of Massachusetts’ commitment to sustainable and innovative design with its LEED Gold certification and demonstration of emerging wood construction technologies.
"The space is made possible by an innovative wood truss system showing us how to reach beyond the CLT systems to make larger spaces. Its courtyard guarantees views and access to campus to everyone within the building and is well integrated into the larger campus." - Jury comment
An integrated approach to sustainability maximizes the impact of passive design, while incorporating strategic engineering solutions to minimize energy use. Addressing not only operational energy use, but also reducing the embodied energy of the building itself, the Olver building features an innovative use of engineered timber structure. The largest cross-laminated timber (CLT) academic building in the United States, the Olver building demonstrates the sustainability, economy, and beauty of mass timber as a building material and renewable resource.
The Olver building occupies a pivotal site on the Amherst campus and brings the community into "the commons" where students and faculty gather for organized and informal activity. The well-lit space offers visual connection to studios and maker spaces, embracing the university's collaborative goals. The surrounding landscape and roof garden restore a visibly functioning ecosystem, creating an outdoor classroom for detailing, site engineering, plant ecology, soil science, and stormwater management.
For students using the spaces, the building itself is both a learning environment and a teaching tool, demonstrating the simplicity, power, and beauty of design that expressively integrates structure, landscape, and architecture.