Brown University, Wellness Center and Residence Hall
Mass Timber Decking Case Study

This new center for health services on campus includes a 162 bed residence hall with a central focus on student wellness. The project is designed to LEED v4 Silver standards and uses the FitWel and Well certification systems as guidelines for design of healthy buildings.

The building’s holistic approach to wellness and well-being translates to very literal ingredients for sustainable design. One example of this is the building blocks of the structure: a hybrid system of steel framing and CLT (cross-laminated timber). CLT is known as a “carbon sink” product, meaning its production emits less CO2 than the production of steel or concrete. This is true of most wood products, though the advantage of CLT is that growing trees sequester CO2 in their fibers, making the final product used on construction sites “carbon negative.” This type of product promotes the use of renewable resources, carefully managed forestry, environmentally sensitive architecture and building technology that is meant to last.

The interior environment of the building is infused with this commitment to sustainability and well-being by putting the CLT on display. The exposed wood deck presents warm, natural material to building users and amplifies the healing aspects of “access to nature” and daylight (similar to the goals of LEED IEQ credits 6, 7, 8). This strategy also reduces the amount of man-made materials on the project such as gypsum wall board, paint, and other synthetic materials used in conventional construction.

In addition to strategies for natural ventilation in bedrooms (for improved indoor air quality), this building is also equipped with energy recovery technology on mechanical systems and a complete ban of fossil fuel burning equipment and appliances on site. All building systems are electric, which is a result of the University’s pledge to reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2040. The campus’s first phase of this commitment offsets 100% of on-campus electricity by means of off-site solar and wind providers.

The design also places a heavy emphasis on providing occupants direct access to the outdoors. Gathering spaces for residents on upper floors optimize views to the Pembroke Field across the street, while end users in the Wellness areas have access to four distinct courtyards - each with its own character. A viewing garden for the counseling and psychological services department is the focal point for which counselors’ offices are arranged around. A convening courtyard is an extension of the building’s community kitchen which residents, patients and employees may gather for a casual cup of coffee or a more formal nutritional event. The two courtyards facing Pembroke field act as an extension of the park, providing a front yard and sense of arrival for all users. The exposed CLT ties the experience together so users not only have literal “access to nature,” but the spaces they inhabit are constructed with natural materials as well.

The sustainable approach for this mass timber project relies largely on the use of healthy building materials and putting those materials on display – not just to show end users a commitment to wellness, but to create an environment whose aesthetic character supports healthy living.