Andrea Leers and Tom Chung of Leers Weinzapfel Associates share insights on UMass Amherst's Design Building, the East Coast's first mass timber structure, as well as on forthcoming timber projects.
While the international community has embraced timber as a credible building material, the U.S. continues to play catch-up. However, for Boston-based Leers Weinzapfel Associates, designing and constructing projects with a timber structure has provided opportunities for creativity, collaboration, and innovation.
Recently, the firm worked with faculty and students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) on the institution's new Design Building, which became the first mass-timber structure on the East Coast when it opened in January. Leers Weinzapfel principals Andrea Leers, FAIA, and Tom Chung, AIA, had to think and act quickly when the project's original steel structure was swapped out for a glue-laminated (glulam) post-and-beam system after design had begun. Ultimately, the timber structure integrated new building technologies, such as custom steel-and-glulam zipper trusses and a composite floor system, both devised by UMass professors.