University of Massachusetts, Lowell (Lowell, MA)
UMass Lowell considered Olsen Hall, a six-story structure built in 1971 as a biology research and teaching facility, to no longer be adequate for the needs of the programs housed there. Virtually all the mechanical and electrical systems had reached the end of their service life, and the condition of the spaces was limiting the University’s ability to recruit and retain top candidates.
After examining options for renovation or replacement of the building, the university responded to the growing significance of interdisciplinary research and the blurring of traditional departmental boundaries in the sciences by envisioning Olsen Hall as a dedicated, interdisciplinary Life Sciences Center.
Our programming and conceptual design study, in close collaboration with faculty, identified the following goals:
- New undergraduate classrooms to support the university’s north campus
- Additional flexible teaching laboratory space to support the biology program
- A new vivarium designed to meet current standards, to replace the outmoded facility
- Additional research lab space to support new PIs or expanded PI groups
- Additional core research facilities
Our study proposed a Master Plan that will guide incremental phased renovations, with upper floors being used for research and teaching labs, middle floors (with a smaller footprint) for classrooms and faculty offices, and the ground floor for a new, expanded vivarium as well as classrooms. We developed four sequential phases of construction that are expected to align with incremental state funding over time.
We also identified and integrated an extensive set of building-wide improvements addressing accessibility, life safety, energy efficiency, and deferred maintenance, giving UMass Lowell a clear road-map for the renewal of Olsen Hall.
Following the study, Goody Clancy was hired by the University to complete the renovation project. We are currently designing Phase 1 renovations, which include complete renovation of two floors for classrooms and offices, as well as selective infrastructure improvements. The new design will transform the appearance and functionality of the renovated floors, bringing natural light deeper into the floor plate, providing a variety of formal and informal collaboration spaces for faculty and students, and introducing new systems to dramatically improve occupant comfort and energy performance.
A significant challenge is inserting new systems for part of the building while the rest of Olsen Hall remains in operation using existing systems. We have developed a set of evaluative tools to assist the Owner in making sound decisions that address both near-term and longer-term infrastructure issues, while leaving flexibility to accommodate evolving programs.