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A Chance to Connect: Part 1

The UMASS Mass Timber “Integrated Design Building” Project

 By Rick Reynolds

 The University of Massachusetts Amherst, is a public research university in Amherst, MA, the flagship of the University of Massachusetts system.

As part of its aggressive carbon sequestration goals, UMass also has a keen interest in keeping the sustainable forestry industry healthy. With its new, mass timber Integrated Design Building, UMass wanted to lead by example, while leading the greater conversation in large-scale, sustainable building practices.

This exciting new collaborative academic space—the most technically advanced heavy-timber structure in the Eastern US—will serve as a living lesson in the use of innovative new materials, connective systems, and other sustainable building technologies for students, building professionals, and sustainability directors, alike.

Aside from fostering interdepartmental teamwork, the building itself is a collaboration of visionary UMASS department chairs and administrators, government officials, and industry. In the current steel-dominated construction environment, this mass timber project would not have been possible were it not for the vision, support, design, and technical expertise of many people.

The distinctive, contemporary design, by Leers Weinzapfel Associates, with its studios, classrooms, offices, and a two-story common area for students and staff to mingle, combines form and function with state-of-the-art, environmentally-friendly building materials. Of particular note, the building will have a courtyard on the roof, with skylights looking deep into the building. The roof courtyard will feature seating, scenic landscaping, and an open garden.

When completed in January, 2017, the UMASS Integrated Design Building will join the departments of Architecture, Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning, and Building Construction Technology all under one green roof to advance their synergies, collaboration, and disciplines.

For meaningful change to occur in sustainable building—towards the use of more carbon sequestering materials like mass timber—a paradigm shift will need to occur. Leading that charge will be today’s students: tomorrow’s leaders. In Part 2, we will explore why the UMASS Integrated Design Building became a touchstone for the community, and for the project partners, a chance to connect.