DBIANE Award Competition 2017 [Bronze]: Cutler Associates – Five Colleges Library Annex

Project Information

Project Name: Five Colleges Library Annex
Owner: Five Colleges Inc.
Contractor: Cutler Associates, Inc.
Lead Designer: Cutler Design, Inc.
Major Participants: CSL Consulting (OPM), TFMoran (structural engineer), RDK (MEP/FP), Wayne J Griffin (electric)


The design of the Five College Library Annex provided for 9,000 square feet of office space, with the
remaining 26,000 square feet for storage space. The storage room is concrete-floored, with 24-foot high
high-density shelving units that have a capacity to house 2.5 million volumes from Amherst, Hampshire,
Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts.

There was a period of extensive site prep work necessary, including an engineered system for soil
compression to make the ground stable enough to bear the weight of the concrete building, shelving
and books. The procedure removed water from the clay soils, stabilizing them by loading the building
site and parking lot with soil equal to the weight of a fully loaded building. It took 6 weeks, during which time measurements were taken twice per week to reassure the depth of compression. To remove
water, holes were drilled on a 5’x5’ grid while simultaneously inserting a “wick” into each hole. The
water traveled through the wick to the surface.

The building was erected using the tilt-up construction method, where concrete slabs were formed on
site and the panels lifted into place. The complex building systems allow for strict climate control
conditions for long-term preservation of the stored materials.

From the start of the proposal process Cutler Associates teamed with specialty consultants with whom
they’ve delivered numerous design-build projects over the past several decades: RDK Engineering,
TFMoran and Griffin Electric (35 years!). The consultants were on the team because of their expertise –
along with the history of working together with successful results.

Using a collaborative approach, the entire team was brought on at the start of the RFP process and
continued to project completion.

During the design phase they held weekly owner-architect review meetings; in addition, they had
multiple owner-engineer meetings to make certain they were designing to the standards expected, as
well as engineer/architect review meetings. At selected owner-architect meetings the preconstruction
team attended to stay informed and receive updates.

During the construction phase they held weekly owner-architect-contractor meetings, weekly meetings
with subcontractors, and made weekly updates to the 5-week look-ahead schedule.

The architects were 100% engaged in the construction process, on site 2-3 times/week, reviewing the
job with the superintendents. The engineer was involved with any changes requiring their input and
they found solutions on the spot, collaboratively, to fix any issues as they arose. There were daily
reviews with the owner to identify when changes needed to be made. This shortened the approval
process to minutes rather than days, enabling the project to stay on schedule. The level of familiarity
amongst the team members made this possible.