Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center

Mass Timber Recreation Center Becomes University’s ‘Finest Front Porch’

For centuries, collegiate landscapes have been defined by their architecture, whether the stoic gothic revival buildings of the 1800s, or minimal, glassy designs of the mid-20th century. Today, academic institutions are ushering in a new class of energy-efficient, mass timber structures, combined with active design concepts that put student needs first. 

Active design places a primary focus on people, specifically promoting physical, mental and social wellness among users of a space. In a collegiate setting, active design — often deployed through campus recreation centers — helps students learn to make healthy choices and cope with stress, while also creating primary social destinations and recruiting tools for universities. For South Carolina’s Clemson University, the Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center serves exactly this purpose.

First-of-its-Kind Destination

Created as a destination to bring students together and facilitate outdoor recreation, the Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center emphasizes wellness, relaxation and inclusive experiences that promote physical, mental and emotional health. 

The REI-inspired, 16,000-square-foot-facility sits purposely on Clemson’s lake-front recreation complex, taking full advantage of its waterfront access, surrounding natural landscape and commanding views of the historic campus. Inside, the center features social space, rooms for activities such as yoga, rowing and aerobics, and two dedicated, multi-use classroom spaces for trip planning and experiential learning. Additional amenities include a boathouse and equipment rental.

Photo credit: Jonathan Hillyer

This project also represents Clemson’s first mass timber facility, and one of only two in the country to use southern yellow pine cross-laminated timber, locally sourced and manufactured in nearby Dothan, Alabama. CLT floors, roof, and shear walls are left exposed throughout the building, adding visual warmth that speaks to the function of the facility, while also emphasizing its biophilic role in promoting wellness for Clemson students. The structural framing includes glue-laminated beams and steel columns. 


“We were able to fine tune the design of mass timber to really take advantage of the CLT planks, maximize the spans, reduce the number of framing members, and eliminate the ceiling finishes since we were going to leave it open, exposed and beautiful,” said Brian Campa, principal with Cooper Carry, the project’s architect. “All of those things in play allowed us to create a beautiful aesthetic using a more cost effective approach with mass timber vs. steel.”


Photo credit: Jonathan Hillyer

The structure’s expansive roof overhangs provide ample shade for the large patio below, as well as a second-level deck that are popular destinations for students, who are often seen lounging outside, even while attending virtual classes online.

“The goal was to make a student destination on campus, said Chris Fiocchi, senior director, Campus Recreation at Clemson University. “We wanted an opportunity to educate people on both what it means to work with mass timber on a university campus, while also demonstrating the real mission of campus recreation programs. We accomplished both.”

Photo credit: Jonathan Hillyer

Sustainable Potential

The center was designed primarily to promote student wellness, but its use of wood also reflects Clemson’s focus on achieving a sustainable, net-zero footprint. According to Campa, creating a mass timber structure that embodies carbon and is crafted from locally sourced materials helps achieve this goal.

Photo credit: Jonathan Hillyer
While mass timber continues to gain traction in the construction industry, there is significant untapped potential for creative ways to apply the building material. The ability to impact our environment in a positive way is inspiring.
Brian Campa
Cooper Carry

In addition to carbon-storing timber construction, the facility is designed to run on minimal heating and cooling loads. Its expansive glass facade allows natural daylighting along with sensor-controlled lighting, large-scale fans to help reduce cooling loads and passive cooling for boat storage spaces. With the installation of photovoltaic materials on both roofs, the facility will produce enough energy to offset its needs. 

The construction process itself also proved sustainable, requiring only one dumpster during the mass timber installation. “It was the cleanest, prettiest building site,” remarked Layton. “These buildings are so beautiful and inspiring, and it’s tough to accomplish that with steel and concrete.”

Model Student

In addition to biophilic benefits and sustainability attributes, the decision to build with mass timber was championed by Clemson’s Wood Utilization + Design Institute for its educational impact.

The Institute, led by director Patricia Layton, aims to find new markets and growth opportunities for South Carolina’s $21 billion forest products industry by providing education and training, research and development, and direct marketing opportunities for Clemson students to explore wood-based building solutions. When Layton heard about the University’s plans for an outdoor education center, she knew new mass timber was the perfect fit: “It’s an opportunity to help our broad student body — not just the forestry and architecture students — appreciate this building type.”

Photo credit: Jonathan Hillyer
Patricia Layton
Wood Utilization + Design Institute, Clemson University
This will change the way we build, the way we work and the way we help our students enjoy nature.

Since its completion, Layton has shared that the center now serves as a national model for recreation and leisure space, as well as wood-building techniques. It is a showplace for visiting architects, and serves as a student research facility for mass timber construction, including active moisture and vibration testing. Public tours of the center have inspired the construction of new mass timber structures in Mississippi, Columbia University, Auburn University, and even private residences in Florida.

“As we help these universities grow into this building system, it gives confidence to other universities to follow and see the benefits, both in the sustainable sense but also cost effectiveness,” added Campa.

The project was completed in spring 2020, and students continued to use the facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project received Green Globes certification for environmentally friendly construction and was awarded a 2021 U.S. Wood Design Award for regional excellence. 

“I consider this Clemson’s finest front porch,” said Layton. “It will be a place visited by millions in the years to come, and prospective students will choose to come to Clemson because this building is here.”

Photo credit: Jonathan Hillyer

Learn more about Clemson University's Wood Utilization + Design Institute in this Q+A with director Patricia Layton.

Project Details

  • Architect
    • Cooper Carry
  • Developer
    • Clemson University
  • Structural Engineer
    • Britt, Peters and Associates
  • Contractor
    • Sherman Construction
  • Location
    • Seneca, SC
  • Size
    • 16,000 sq ft
Project Recommendation

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