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Brown University tops off first housing building in three decades

The facility, scheduled for completion next April, will combine a residence hall with student health services.

June 18, 2020 |

Among the infection-control protocols that Shawmut Design and Construction rolled out on the Brown University project is Shawmut Vitals, which allows workers to self-certify daily health screenings by scanning a job-specific QR code. Image: Shawmut 

Brown University in Providence, R.I., earlier this month celebrated the virtual topping off of a 96,000-sf wellness center and 162-bed residence hall that, when they open for the fall semester in 2021, will be inside the first new building in Brown’s housing portfolio in 30 years.

The facility is designed to meet LEED v4 Silver standards using Fitwel and WELL certification systems as guidelines. The building will bring together several services for student mental and physical wellbeing, including Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, Brown Emergency Medical Services, and BWell, the university’s health promotion program.  

The project is part of a strategic sourcing program between Brown University and the construction management firm Shawmut Design and Construction, which is completing this building in partnership with the architecture firm William Rawn Associates. Brown states on its website that the building is a prototype implementation of the vision and principles underlying the university’s Undergraduate Housing Master Plan update (2018).


This photo shows the exterior construction progress that includes a cross-laminated timber deck. Image: Shawmut


The building features a hybrid system of steel framing and cross-laminated timber that will lower the structure’s carbon footprint. The building’s approach to sustainability make it “a one-of-a-kind residential and academic experience that will be a model for holistic student learning and engagement,” said Ron Simoneau, Shawmut’s executive vice president of Education, in a prepared statement.

This project’s Building Team includes LeMessurier Consultants (SE), Vanasse Hangen Brustline (CE), Stephen Stimon Associates (landscape), Accentech (acoustics), Jensen Hughes (code/fire alarm/fire protection), The Green Engineer (sustainability), Adelman and Lelek Engineering (energy modeling), GZA Environmental (Geotech), Environmental Systems (HVAC), Sterling Engineering (EE), and Harry Grodsky & Co. (PE).

The residence hall, on the upper floors of the building, will include a mix of single bedrooms and four-person suites. The health services will be co-located on the lower floors along with the student-led EMS department. (The building will have five floors on its south side, where the ambulance bay is located, and four floors on its north side. The site slopes 12.5 ft from south to north.)


A rendering of Brown University's new Wellness Center and residence hall, which will be ready for the 2021 fall semester. Image: William Rawn Associates


The building will have natural wood ceilings and a visible wood deck. All building systems are electric, and mechanical systems will have energy recovery technology, aligning with Brown’s pledge to reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2040.

On this project, Shawmut has rolled out new procedures to minimize the potential risk from the coronavirus. These include protocols such as Shawmut Vitals, a custom technology platform that allows team members to self-certify daily health screenings by scanning a job-specific QR code and completing a health survey. Workers have their temperatures before being allowed onsite and are issued personal protection equipment.

A spokesperson for Shawmut tells BD+C that the Building Team was still reviewing possible adjustments to the building’s design that would abet infection control. The building already incorporates a “ramped up” air ventilation and filtration system with the wellness center integration, this spokesperson says.

Neither Brown University nor Shawmut disclosed the cost of this building.

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