Photo by Langer Hsu / Leers Weinzapfel Associates

University of Massachusetts, John W. Olver Design Building

Amherst, MA




2020 COTE Top Ten, American Institute of Architects
2018 Jury’s Choice for Wood Innovation, WoodWorks
2018 Engineering Excellence Grand Award, American Council of Engineering Companies
2018 Engineering Excellence Gold Award, American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts
2017 U.S. Building of the Year, World-Architects magazine
2017 Most Innovative Project Award (less than $100 million), Architectural Engineering Institute
2017 Excellence in Structural Engineering Award (New Buildings $20 to $100 Million), National Council of Structural Engineering Associations
2017 Awards of Merit for Structural Systems Design and Architectural Engineering Integration, Architectural Engineering Institute
2017 Award of Merit, Higher Education/Research Category, ENR New England
UMass John W. Olver Design Building

Photo by Alexander C. Schreyer / University of Massachusetts

UMass John W. Olver Design Building

Photo by Alexander C. Schreyer / University of Massachusetts

UMass John W. Olver Design Building

Photo by Albert Vecerka/Esto

The university wanted to bring their design programs – Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, and Building and Construction Technology – together in one creatively designed building exemplifying their focus on sustainable construction practices. A steel- or concrete-framed structure would be the conventional choice for this building’s size and use, but the new Design Building features a mass timber superstructure to maximize renewable materials. SGH was the engineer of record for this project.

Scope | Solutions

SGH collaborated with Equilibrium Consulting Inc. to design this innovative structure. By exposing the engineered timber framing, cross-laminated timber (CLT) decks, and concrete slabs, the project team emphasized the structure’s contribution to the building’s design and minimized the need for many interior finishes. Highlights of our structural design include the following:

  • Glue-laminated timber beams, columns, and braced frames

  • CLT decks composite with concrete slabs and CLT bearing and shear walls around mechanical and stair/elevator shafts

  • A system of three-dimensional roof trusses – consisting of composite concrete-glulam chords, round glulam compression struts, and steel tension ties – to span over the multistory atrium

  • Full-story steel truss to support the atrium truss system and suspended CLT stairway below

As one of the largest mass timber buildings in the U.S. and a first of its kind in the Northeast, the Design Building uses wood products in new and creative ways. SGH load tested connection mockups to evaluate their strength and ductility. We also prepared documentation to demonstrate this innovative structural design meets the general intent of the current Massachusetts State Building Code.

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