The new four-story John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the first cross-laminated timber (CLT) academic building in the US. It is also an example of true collaboration: UMass’s Building and Construction Technology (BCT) department actually developed some of the CLT technology used in this project. The building was designed by Leers Weinzapfel Associates, and Acentech provided acoustics and audiovisual design services for this project.

The building’s multi-disciplinary program, organized around an interior courtyard called the Commons, showcased the exposed timber with the intention to foster collaboration across the disciplines of architecture, building technology, landscape architecture, and regional planning. This courtyard doubles as a presentation space as well. To achieve optimal speech intelligibility, Acentech worked with the design team in the careful selection of sound absorptive finishes with an emphasis on wood-based products. Clear sound separation of the various programmed spaces was a priority and challenging, especially with noise producing spaces such as shops and BCT labs adjacent to seminar rooms and the Commons. Working with the CLT system, Acentech worked with the design team in detailing a custom sound isolating floor/ceiling systems for some of the most critical adjacencies. With most of the mechanical systems designed to be exposed rather than shielded by a traditional acoustical panel ceiling, the MEP system is designed to operate quietly with energy-efficient chilled beams and fan coil units on ECM motor.

As the new home to UMass Amherst’s architectural and engineering programs, the John Olver building needed to accommodate custom audiovisual systems to compliment the highly technical nature of these studies. Acentech designed the presentation systems for designated classrooms, meeting spaces, seminar rooms, videoconference suite, and the central atrium mentioned above. Sound systems were also key within the development of these spaces. Our audiovisual consultants placed a keen interest in developing user-friendly systems to ensure teachers and students can easily share and collaborate across a wide spectrum of abilities. These systems were scalable in nature as well, which allowed the users to be able to migrate between them and have a consistent look and feel, while also making them easy to manage and support for the school technicians.

“The Acentech team really delivered on this project. The main atrium works well acoustically for small group reviews as well as for large gatherings. We also love the laser projectors and are pleased with how well the LCD screens work in our conference rooms that are facing due west.” -Alexander C. Schreyer, Director of the Building and Construction Technology Program at UMass Amherst

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