John W. Olver Design Building Fabrication Labs

Named in honor of former U.S. Representative John W. Olver, the University of Massachusetts Amherst Design Building is “the first Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) academic building in the United States and the largest installation of wood concrete composites in North America.” The new Design Building serves as a unified home for the previously separated departments of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, and the Building and Construction Technology program, all of which share a commitment to the environment. The building offers faculty, staff, and students a range of consolidated resources, which includes a new suite of fabrication labs and facilities on the ground level. The Umass Design Building was the result of a public competition that began with a request for proposals from The University of Massachusetts Building Authority in 2013. Radlab was part of the initial RFP submission team with Leers Weinzapfel Architects, and led the design of the fabrication labs and support spaces through all phases of construction.

The fabrication spaces are organized along the southern edge of the building. The particular spaces for which Radlab was responsible included the entry vestibule adjacent to the Commons, the shop manager’s office, the wood shop, the CNC router lab, the laser cutting and vacuum forming lab, and the 3d printing lab. Some of the key issues which informed our design agenda included sustainability, health and safety, security and access, visibility and lines of sight, daylighting, comfort, and circulation efficacy. Radlab collaborated with BVH on the MEP related concerns, ranging from choosing the most appropriate dust collection system, to locating emergency shut off switches and valves, to properly routing the laser cutting exhaust system.  Radlab worked directly with faculty and shop management staff from UMass Amherst to understand their particular interests, then assimilate and translate them into the project. Radlab also collaborated with Leers Weinzapfel to solve issues of integration and mutual benefit between the labs and the rest of the building. In addition to leading the design of the fab labs, our role included providing comprehensive specifications for all of the machines, hand tools, and health/safety related equipment, ensuring that the work areas, storage, and space provided throughout the labs was distributed in an effective manner. The John W. Olver Design Building has been honored with an Award of Merit in the Engineering News-Record (ENR) list of New England’s 2017 Best Projects.

Status: Completed, 2017
Client: University of Massachusetts
Location: Amherst, MA

Project Team
Matt Trimble
Amanda Lee
Ian Carney
Bob Williamson
Jad Ismail