University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst’s 87,500-square-foot John W. Olver Design Building has earned LEED Gold certification, as well as recognition for its unique aesthetic. The building envelope’s Copper Anodize showcases a luxurious, rich, metallic finish on Dri-Design’s aluminum panel rainscreen system.

Leers Weinzapfel Associates (LWA) selected the colors and materials for their distinguished appearance, their integration with the architectural palette of the campus, and their biophilic connection with the timber and metal of the area’s natural, rural environment.

Inspired by the towering trees of Amherst’s forests, the majority of the rectangular panels are installed as solid, vertical planks and aligned to emphasize the tall, narrow windows. Accenting the building’s ascending height, horizontal panels define each floor rising from three stories at the back to four at the main entrance. Perforated panels add visual interest and provide diffused daylight for those studying inside.

“The copper-anodized finish works well as a modern material in a traditional brick campus context,” said Jeffrey Fishbein, AIA, senior associate at LWA. He added, “The owner valued a low-maintenance, economical and high-performance cladding system.”

The durable Copper Anodize finish is achieved through Linetec’s eco-friendly anodize, which has been recognized with a Declare Label as Living Building Challenge™ (LBC) Red List Free. Declare Label products that are LBC Red List Free have been approved as a compliance pathway for the certain LEED criteria. The finished metal wall panels were manufactured with recycled content and can be recycled at the end of their life on the UMass Design Building.

In total, R & R Window Contractors, Inc. installed 26,294 square feet of 0.080-inch aluminum Copper Anodized panels. Dri-Design noted, “This finish allows designers to capture the warm glow of natural copper with the long-lasting durability of an anodized finish. The Copper Anodized finish has subtle variations of the copper-penny color from panel to panel that add depth and character to buildings.”

Opened in April 2017, the UMass Design Building is named for former congressman and UMass Amherst chemistry professor John Olver. It serves more than 500 students and 50 faculty in three academic units from three separate colleges: the Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning (LARP) from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; the Department of Architecture from the College of Humanities and Fine Arts; and the Building and Construction Technology (BCT) Program, part of the Department of Environmental Conservation from the College of Natural Sciences. LARP and BCT are also part of the School of Earth and Sustainability.

In addition to its LEED Gold certification, the Design Building was recognized by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment with a Top Ten Award in 2020 and by AIA New England with a Merit Award for Design Excellence in 2019. The project also was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the best new buildings of 2017, was honored by ENR with an Award of Merit as a 2017 Best Projects in New England in the higher education/research category, and voted as U.S. Building of the Year 2017 in an online global poll by World Architects.