"The classroom should be an entrance into the world, not an escape from it."
— John Ciardi

Teaching and learning are constantly evolving. Classroom typologies, learning styles, pedagogical approaches, institutional culture, and campus standards vary wildly across the higher education landscape. This presents
unique challenges in the design of learning environments. As a result of our experience, Jones has developed key metrics for learning spaces that we use as a planning resource with our clients.

If you survive long enough, you're revered - rather like an old building.”
— Katharine Hepburn

All campuses face aging core academic facilities, often housed in important historic buildings at the heart of campus. These buildings typically come with a long list of needs like supporting modern programs, addressing deferred maintenance, code compliance and accessibility. But topping the list, always, is the need to maintain historic character and the distinct sense of place these buildings impart.

Background on Norwich University

Founded in 1819 in Norwich, Vermont, by Captain Alden Partridge, Norwich University is the oldest private military college in the United States. Partridge grounded the education in a traditional liberal arts curriculum with instruction in civil engineering and military science. Subsequent moves to Middletown CT (1825) and back to Norwich (1829) preceded a final move to Northfield VT in 1866. In the mid 1990’s, Norwich University acquired Vermont College and now combines its robust military history with a civilian student population. The central campus revitalization was the anchor project of Norwich’s 200th anniversary capital campaign. Freeman French Freeman, Architects worked with Jones as the architect-of-record.

"When we design for disability first, you often stumble upon solutions that are better than those when we design for the norm."
— Elise Roy

Designing to include people of all abilities is not the correction of an "instance" or "occurrence," it’s an act of empathy aimed at respectfully and generously meeting the multitude of ways that humans move, navigate, live and interact. It’s also an opportunity to solve for more than accessibility.

“What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.”
― Harold Howe

No longer simply a place for books, academic research, and quiet study, the 21st century academic library is now a social destination, home for teaching and learning, a place of research, and an incubator for bringing ideas to life.

“Globally the number of mass timber buildings will double every two years. The result is that the North American timber industry will store more carbon than it emits by the year 2034.”
— North American Mass Timber Report: 2021 State of the Industry

Ten years ago, there were no Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) factories in the United States. Today, there are more than a dozen. In 2015 CLT was recognized as a structural product in the International Building Code (IBC) for buildings up to six stories. As of this year, the IBC allows the use of mass timber structural products (which include CLT panels and glulam columns and beams among others) in buildings up to 25 stories tall (Milwaukee multifamily tower).

While the benefits of mass timber use may not live up to its proponents’ inspiring predictions, the speed with which this renewable material has been taken up in an industry that is notoriously slow to change speaks to its promise: it is a strong, safe, beautiful, and low-carbon alternative (or complement) to concrete and steel —and its use also speeds construction.

“He is the best physician who is the most ingenious inspirer of hope.”

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“He is the best physician who is the most ingenious inspirer of hope.”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Other than geography, it’s hard to see what TD Garden, MIT, Salem Five Bank and the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance have in common. Yet each engaged Jones Architecture in an on-call capacity, along with more than a dozen other institutions in our region. Why? What are the advantages? Is there a downside to hiring a “house doc?”

That means reaching beyond environmental and accessibility practices to include strategies that lead to social and economic justice, equity and inclusion.

Accessibility. Universal design. Inclusive design. What does it all mean? When it comes to the built environment, each concept is different, and all are related. As the most recent addition to the lexicon, inclusive design is perhaps most elusive. Is it a noun or a verb? What does it look like? How is it different from the other two? Owners might feel some trepidation at the term. (Yet another requirement? What will it cost?). To designers, it feels good; that is, it feels like good design. And to users? It feels like being respected and heard; it feels right.

At Jones, inclusive design comes down to making as many people as possible feel comfortable and accepted in their environment. Shaping an “architecture for belonging” is part mindset, part process, part product (verb and noun). Step one: when defining goals for the design of any project, put “belonging” on the list. And no, it doesn’t have to cost more money, or take more time. In any case, a better question might be, what are the costs of exclusion?

Learning environments are changing — faster than ever thanks to Covid-19. The rise of interdisciplinary and collaborative learning has fostered a host of changes to departmental structures, institutional policies, educational pedagogy, research funding, and student life.

Good learning environments are shaped by the activities that they contain, and space planning and design strategies are evolving in response to these changes. As teaching and learning approaches evolve, we work with clients to align and anticipate future needs in the architecture, systems, furniture, AV, technology, finishes, and other aspects of the environment.

In his video essay, How Life Looks Through My ‘Whale Eyes,’ which was recently published in the New York Times, James Robinson gives viewers a poignant glimpse into what it’s like to navigate the world as part of the “sea of difference,” on which the “USS Normal” sails. Robinson, who graduated from Duke in 2020, deals with three different eye conditions that cause an array of challenges with how he sees — and how he is seen.

“We put so much time and effort into making sure that people who are perceived as different understand what it would be like if they were normal,” he says. “But we rarely ever do the opposite. Pushing those who perceive themselves as normal to understand what it would be like if they were different.”

“A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library.”
― Shelby Foote

Book box, archive, student hub, campus nexus, quiet study area, collaboration space, classroom – today’s academic libraries support students in a myriad of ways. It is a place for people with information in it, not the other way around. With so many potential uses, how do you know how to program and design the right library for your campus?

Consult the Library of Libraries

Jones’ academic library database encompasses more than 85 institutions throughout New England and beyond. The information we have gathered includes general contextual information like campus size, character, makeup and program trends, including detailed seat count and type analyses as well as information about space utilization.

We bring this data to bear on the design and planning recommendations that we make for university clients by identifying their peer group and drawing comparisons. This, however, is just the beginning.

Each institution is unique, of course, so we use this peer assessment as a benchmarking tool and launch point for asking questions about why, how and what the specific needs will be as it relates to your institution.

CLT is still a relatively new material for building in New England, but it won’t be for long; CLT can be used as floor and roof slabs as well as shear and shaft walls. It is typically combined with a glulam, steel, or concrete superstructure of beams and columns. It is suitable in just about any midrise project that involves new construction, including additions and renovations. This last point is important, because using existing building stock is the first strategy in building green.

“House doctor” is common parlance in our industry, referring to a consultant who is on-call to assist an organization, often under a master or term contract agreement. Projects may be planning or design and construction. They are generally smaller, but not exclusively so. They may be simple or complex.

From the day we opened our doors in 2010, Jones has embraced practices that focus on preserving, protecting and renewing natural systems and resources. The approach is intrinsic to our work; no project begins without consideration of its environmental effects. But creating a sustainable future entails far more than green building.


First, let’s revisit the terms. Most familiar is accessibility: ensuring access to and throughout buildings for people of all abilities has been the law for more than 30 years.

Universal design takes that idea and expands on it, relying on seven key principles to create a building (or a can opener or software for example) that can be “accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability,” ideally in ways that don’t differentiate or relegate some people to a lesser status. It reaches beyond code and compliance to achieve a more intuitive and gracious experience for everyone. A common example is a building that is accessed via a gentle slope, as opposed to, say, a grand front stair with a ramp or elevator around back.

Inclusive design moves beyond the realm of physical characteristics that affect a person’s experience of their environment to acknowledge the full range of human diversity, from gender and culture to age and ability. Inclusive design centers on process, wherein a diverse set of voices inform design, the better to ensure a better response, i.e., one that meets multiple needs for multiple and distinct users. Inclusive design eschews assumptions about how people use a space in favor of asking them. (Imagine!)

“But!” Some may think, “Architects have always done that – they listen to owners, board members, facility managers and so on; they assimilate input from engineers, IT experts, builders, etc.” And we do. What’s different now is as simple as it is profound: we’re trying to fold in voices that have been traditionally overlooked.

Think of it as “designing with” rather than “designing for.” The inclusive design leader Susan Goltsman may have said it best:

“Inclusive design doesn’t mean you’re designing one thing for all people. You’re designing a diversity of ways to participate so that everyone has a sense of belonging.”


Some of the trends that we see in learning include increased competition/increased expectations, supporting broad ranges of teaching and learning styles, providing a diverse portfolio of learning environments, combinations of service and learning, finding learning spaces everywhere, and exploiting opportunities for program sharing or consolidation.

Jones has completed hundreds of classrooms on nearly two dozen college campuses over the last 10 years.

The architect’s job is to “do the opposite;” to push ourselves, as Robinson describes, into understanding what it would be like to swim in the ‘sea of difference,” and then design places that meet those differences with intelligence and grace. This inclusive approach is known as universal design or designing for accessibility — or just plain old good design. Regardless of what we call it, it’s all about empathy. We have to be able to imagine how all kinds of different people with diverse abilities can access, use and enjoy the same place without compromise.

Universal Design

Every project that Jones undertakes embraces universal design concepts. Quite often, we are working on campuses constructed well before laws that govern universal access were enacted, which means we don’t have the luxury of starting from scratch.

Solutions within buildings are solved as part of renovations to these structures. Many of the buildings have seen multiple overhauls since their original construction — to address deferred maintenance, the end of the natural life of particular building systems, or finish upgrades. As these incremental updates have been implemented, they are accompanied by improvements to accessibility, in compliance with the law — bathroom updates, door operation, ramps and sloped walks at building entries, etc.

However, when working on a campus, there is an ill-defined limit outside the building where the accessibility scope stops. It is not a standalone building in a parking lot where you can draw a clean line. These campuses are networks of circulation and we are often tasked with drawing these lines in ways that improve accessibility, while limiting scope to contain project cost.

For example, types of questions include:

1. How distributed are the study options for your students? (some campuses have many, distributed opportunities on campus that offer alternatives for students, others rely heavily on the library --- this will skew seat count).

2. Are there programs not currently housed in the library that have existing programmatic synergy? Would they benefit from colocation?

3. Are there unique aspects to your school that may skew our analysis? For example, at one liberal arts college it is practice to provide a carrel to each senior for their thesis, which leads to an inordinate number of carrel seats.

This balanced approach, in which we bolster anecdotal information and observations with empirical evidence and analysis of peer institutions, resonates with constituents: librarians, trustees, administrators, faculty and students.

Ainsworth and Dewey Halls are two of the oldest buildings on campus, and each have unique historic character that yearned to be rediscovered and augmented.

  • Ainsworth Hall was built in 1910 for the United States Weather Bureau as its central Vermont station. In the 1960’s and 70’s it was converted to the School of Social Sciences.
  • Built in 1902, Dewey Hall is one of the oldest buildings on the Northfield campus. It was gutted by fire in 1925 and rebuilt as a three-story structure. At the outset of the planning process, it was home to the School of Business & Management, including a top-five program in cyber security.
  • Webb Hall (1960) contained Dole Auditorium and was the home to the School of Humanities. It is now called Schneider Hall.

Anyone who works in the AEC industry is well aware of our sector’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions; taken together, buildings (operation) and their construction account for 38% of all energy-related CO2, according to the UN 2020 Global Status Report for Building and Construction. The report notes that direct building CO2 emissions need to halve by 2030 to get on track for net zero carbon building stock by 2050 (which is a critical target for keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5°C). Mass timber can help us get there — mostly by reducing emissions associated with building construction, although it can also make contributions to energy performance.

When we take on a new project as a house doc, we’re bringing with us the experience of every project that has come before it with that organization, and often with forethought about those ahead. This context includes an understanding of organizational identity, standards, preferences, goals and ways of working — an accumulation of institutional knowledge that pays multiple dividends, from increased efficiency to better design.

The modern concept of sustainability is defined as meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs; as such, it embodies three interconnected pillars: ecological, social and economic health and stability. But what of these latter two? This is the work in progress at Jones.


Architects are synthesizers by nature and by training; it is our job to ask, listen, observe and respond in ways that take myriad and often competing variables into account; we are obsessed with elegance and economy — how can we resolve this messy set of variables in a unified fashion? How do we make something as beautiful as it is useful as it is welcoming? How can we make this place work for as many people as possible with the least number of moves?

We start by simply saying it out loud on new projects: we prioritize belonging as a design goal. Why? Because inclusion has too much value to ignore. Like sustainability, it has become, for Jones, a non-negotiable element of design. We are convinced that if we are not working toward improving DEI in our industry, we are contributing to the problem. And it is a problem.

Historically, architects have discounted many voices, namely those belonging to people who are not white or male but also people with low incomes, or less than a college education.

Fortunately, that’s changing. For the profession to be a better reflection of the world we live in is both right and necessary. When more people of diverse backgrounds — including cognitive diversity as this study shows —  have a voice in architecture, more effective and enduring design is the result. (More food for thought on design and inclusion here and a book list here.)

To achieve more inclusive design, we are challenging our approach to user engagement, recommendations to clients, and hiring and recruitment; we are identifying and dismantling exclusionary processes. And here’s the best part: We never know what may come out of these processes, but it’s certainly never going to make a project worse. It’s only going to get better.

Inclusive design is less about checklists and standards than an expansion on what architects already do — engage stakeholders, get information from them, and implement accordingly. We’re learning as we go. That said, since formalizing our inclusive design efforts in January 2023, we have a few insights to offer.

Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve learned about planning, design, and construction of learning environments.

Contrary to popular opinion, most campuses have enough classrooms. More often, the issue to be resolved centers on the type and mix of classrooms. When we arrive to a campus and begin interviewing project stakeholders, we regularly hear the same refrain from faculty, administration, students and the registrar: there are not enough classrooms on campus. After deeper analysis, rarely do we find this to be the case.

It is much more often the case that there are the right number of classrooms, but they are lacking in some other way which impacts their utilization. This could be something simple that is easily remedied (it is just that no one ever asked), or it could be something very complex. Maybe technology is substandard. The seat count is not right. Furniture and flexibility provided in the room does not suit the needs of the pedagogical approach. The room is in a building at the edge of campus, or simply not in the same building as the department. There are never whiteboard markers in the room. The only doors are at the front of the room, so late arriving students interrupt the lecture. The room isn’t scheduled on Monday mornings or Friday afternoons because those are unpopular slots. It is important to dig deeper at these comments from campus constituents to reveal underlying cause and effect.

Flanked by campus landmarks such as the Upper Parade Ground, White Chapel, and the Wise Campus Center, this central area is comprised of three buildings: Ainsworth, Webb, and Dewey Hall. At the outset of planning, these buildings were home to the School of Social Sciences, School of Humanities, and School of Business & Management, respectively. They were dated and tired, did not serve their constituents well, were plagued by deferred maintenance, and yet remained vital contributors to academic life given their central location and historic character.

The Spaces Between

The all-important spaces between buildings in particular are plagued by impediments — whether the small moments of a single step or two, or the sweeping challenges of a sloped walk that exceeds code limits and runs for hundreds of feet. At the same time, sitework and landscape offer some of the best opportunities to achieve universal access and can be far less expensive than renovation or building anew. Creatively manipulating a site can shape a system of access that everyone uses in the same way — raising the grade so that no stairs are required, for example.

That’s why it has been gratifying to work on campus projects whose primary motivation was improvement to accessibility in the landscape and circulation network that ties each campus together — offering the opportunity to solve for access in a way that also improved campus resilience overall. While every project is different in terms of student body, culture, landscape, climate, original design intent, character and so on, each underwent a systemic approach that looks at how the whole campus can benefit from improved access strategies. It starts by identifying areas of exclusion and ends with inclusive design that brings social and environmental benefits to all users, as well as economic benefits to the schools.

Inside Today's Academic Libraries

Libraries are active sites of social engagement, discovery, and knowledge sharing and creation.

These are the key uses driving design now.

Digital Scholarship. We live in a multi-media world, which means campus libraries need to support students’ ability to explore, learn, and produce digital content. Faculty also uses the library to produce content for MOOCs.

More and more facilities in Massachusetts are being planned and built using CLT each day. Jones designed one of our state’s first handful of CLT buildings, the $28.1 million construction cost C. Gerald Lucey office building for the Commonwealth’s Department of Employment Assistance in Brockton, which will be occupied in June 2022.

This is true whether you have 70,000 square feet of real estate or 700,000 – or more. While project volume plays into whether your organization will benefit from a house architect, so does your team capacity. In the last year at Jones, projects completed under term agreements have ranged from preliminary planning assessments for Northeastern University, to a new hockey locker room for the UMass Minutemen and a major renovation to lab spaces at MIT.

What we know: that as people who are paid to solve problems, the more diversity we have in the room, the better; that as humans who share the planet with all sorts of other humans – and non-humans – the more we can contribute to the health and wellbeing of all, the better. And that as professionals who want to feed our families and strengthen our communities, the more equity our work fosters, the better. Our success will increase prosperity, longevity, and resilience – for staff, clients, partners, the projects we touch, and the people whose lives are touched by those projects.

1. Get your own house in order.  Early in 2023, Jones worked with a consultant to help us examine ways to improve our practice relative to leadership, career development, pay equity and ensuring an explicitly inclusive culture. As a result , the firm established a robust performance review process that ensures people’s background and skills are recognized and valued in ways that promote equity. We also created a formal mentorship program that creates a variety of types of conversations so that everyone in the firm has opportunities to talk about career goals and establish development paths that capture individual needs and strengths.  We also created the Jones Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging and Justice (EDIB (J)) Council with a rotating cohort of 6-8 members. The EDIB(J) Council’s vision is to build a more inclusive culture at Jones with goals that include diversifying staff and leadership, creating equitable performance metrics, refining the firm’s onboarding process, community outreach and evaluating projects the firm takes on. Each year, half the members rotate off the council and new members join.

Finally, we recognize that a more diverse set of lived experiences among designers themselves would enrich design outcomes. We are working toward building a more diverse pipeline through outreach, including the development of what we call “pre-professional” mentorships , wherein we invite high school students (two at a time) to join the office for up to six weeks. Our first “class” will convene in summer of 2024 for a group project.


Trickling Up: Perception versus Reality

Following a pilot project where we converted a single, fixed-seat tablet arm room with 120 seats into a 60-seat active learning flexible classroom in 2016, Jones returned to campus in 2018 to renovate the remaining classrooms. The post-occupancy interviews found that while everyone was very pleased with the pilot classroom, no one could not imagine taking the remaining rooms in Harvard Hall and shifting them to active learning — this would require cutting two, 50-seat rooms in half as well, and there was a strong perception that the single biggest need was for 50-seat classrooms.

Working with the building committee and the registrar, further analysis of classroom utilization showed that there was what we came to call a “trickle-up” effect. Classes of 8-12 were regularly getting placed in rooms with 50 seats because there was a deficit of seminar size rooms. Subsequently, larger classes could not find a right-sized room. Classes of 50 would get bumped to lecture halls intended for 100 or more, and so on. As a result, there was a perception that there was a deficit of large classrooms. By splitting the existing two 50 seat rooms into a pair of 12-seat seminar rooms and a pair of 24-seat active learning rooms, we relieved the pressure on these 50 seat rooms elsewhere on campus. The perception of a lack of larger classrooms was debunked through analysis.

"You have ruined me for other classrooms on campus. The technology gives me great flexibility and control."

ꟷ Faculty Member, Post-Occupancy Survey, Northeastern University

Inclusive Design

Map accessibility barriers and pedestrian hazards

Working with the Statewide Accessibility Initiative (SAI) of the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) led to a detailed mapping of auditory, physical, and visual barriers at both Cape Cod Community College and Massasoit Community College. This ranged from non-compliance and safety concerns, to completely inaccessible buildings and landscapes. This process requires bouncing back and forth between the micro (a laser level laid upon the walking surface) to the macro (how do these systems of circulation stitch the campus together).

It’s worth noting that the SAI does not currently include criteria for cognitive, learning, and neurological disabilities, although there is a growing movement — and an architectural specialty to go with it — to address, for example, sensory processing disorders, through the built environment.

Makerspaces have taken on many forms; at their best, they are more than just space and equipment, programmed creatively and appropriately staffed. Great makerspaces offer layers of access—visibility from corridor to activity within; a tinkering table that allows for drop-in, low commitment play for anyone; and deeper, more time-consuming fabrication capacity accessible to more experienced users.

A yearlong planning and programming effort resulted in a $45 million project in which Jones undertook renovations to the three buildings, the addition of a new building, and major site infrastructure improvements to knit all of these new and old buildings together in a way that is meaningful and memorable.

The building, designed with a CLT and glulam beam and column structural system surrounding a steel core, presented a number of design opportunities — and not a few procurement hurdles, due chiefly to the project’s status as the Commonwealth’s first CLT building of this scale to use solely public funds. (Learn more about the project here, and about the procurement process here.)

The Value in Long Term Relationships
The point is not the size or the complexity of a project, but the thinking behind it — which is one of the key reasons for engaging in a long-term relationship with an architect. Below are seven more to consider:

1 – Increase bandwidth

Make a small facilities team bigger, make a big facilities team more productive. New England College of Optometry’s campus comprises five brownstones in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood; a single person runs everything for facilities — from ordering hand sanitizer to overseeing capital project improvements. She needs a designer on call for all kinds of things, from classroom studies and renovations to a five-year window and door replacement project.

Institutions like MIT are another story – they have a large team tackling myriad substantial projects. Before the on-call contract, they would need to go to multiple consultants — involving walk-throughs, RFPs and interviews in a process that is easily eight weeks. With a term contract, they can go to directly to their house doctor partner and distribute the work, saving time and costs on procurement.

Whole Practice Sustainability aims to examine how each strand of sustainability can be woven into a powerful thread that runs through our daily work. Toward that end, we are exploring our beliefs and biases, understanding what we’re already doing right, learning about best practices surrounding justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, identifying improvement areas and implementing steps toward the day at Jones Architecture when the idea of sustainability is so intrinsic to the work, there’s no need to talk about it at all. Here’s where we are today:

2. Design with not for. In other words, don’t assume how a space will be used — ask instead. This seems obvious but the fact is that end users are not always asked about what they’d like to see in a space being designed for them. When it comes to work on college campuses, this often means students. Seek unheard perspectives that go beyond a token member of a pre-selected stakeholder group.” While clients may initially view this as “opening the problem;” i.e., creating headaches for the project team, our experience has shown that the process avoids costly backtracking because it confirms the design criteria for the project, and thus leads to more successful outcomes. 

3. Use multiple means for feedback.. You’ll get more, and higher quality, responses when you use a variety of communication channels. Understand that people  — especially those who are used to being dismissed or ignored may not be comfortable speaking up in a group situation, or may not be able to put their finger on what it is that makes them uncomfortable.  In Jones’s work at Massasoit Community College, which involves renovations to two buildings to house science programs, nursing, allied health, and respiratory care laboratories, we’ve designed a multi-phase engagement process to help build trust with the community. We started in the project’s study phase and conducted another round in schematic design. 

We’ve used online surveys, in-person conversations via open houses, sticky notes, and yes/no votes. We have fliers with more information if people don’t feel comfortable engaging right off the bat — they can get their bearings and come back to us, either in person, or by linking to the survey. We’ll also reach out to student clubs via social media, and offer hybrid small group discussions . For owners concerned about the amount of time (or money) involved in user engagement, we were able to gather feedback from more than 100 people in two days during the study phase, and about 90 people, including administrators and faculty, in the second phase. It is not an arduous process and adds tremendous value.

Not every classroom needs technology — diverse offering of technology within the learning space portfolio will best meet your faculty's variety of needs.

We are often asked, “What is the best model for technology in the classroom?” The responses reflect what we hear from client to client — or even from different educators on the same campus — about the same room. Like other campus elements, technology must be calibrated to the needs and culture of an institution. For some, analog technology such as a piece of chalk and a blackboard is all that they need. For others, a full suite of technological tools supporting face-forward lecture, group work, and content sharing is desired.

"It's simply overwhelming. It is too much technology, and it distracts from the teaching endeavor."

ꟷ Faculty Member, Post-Occupancy Survey, Norwich University

Classrooms are increasingly finding their way into libraries. These versatile spaces accommodate shifts from dialogic to didactic pedagogical modes, and can function as open study space, event venues, or collaborative work environments when not in use as a classroom. Faculty and students alike enjoy access during the extended hours of
operation of the library, which is in contrast to traditional classroom building hours. They are also heavily used by library staff for training purposes and for testing new technologies.

Of smaller scale but no less grand on challenges, we have worked with schools such as MIT (since 2013) Northeastern University (since 2013) and Harvard University (since 2015) whose historic campus cores have strict guidelines and oversight that require carefully considered responses. For the New Hampshire Institute of Art, whose campus is deeply embedded in the City of Manchester, an effort to integrate their offerings into historic public buildings led to the potential for a unique town and gown partnership. With our work at Cape Cod Community College and Massasoit Community College, we developed solutions that cleave to the different character of these two mid-century campuses.

Lessons Learned
For any owner or developer looking to reduce their carbon footprint and construction time while capitalizing on the material’s inspiring design, health and wellness possibilities, CLT deserves serious consideration. Here’s what you need to know before you press go.

1 – Buy-in starts at the top

Owners must recognize the added value of using cross laminated timber from a sustainability, schedule and experiential standpoint and be willing to incur new costs that may be associated with the learning curve for the design, procurement, and construction teams. While costs associated with mass timber can be more than the cost of concrete and steel, savings come in reduced finish materials (in particular ceilings) and advantages during construction, namely reduced installation timelines. The timber in the C. Gerald Lucey Building (which is two thirds of the structure) took about half the time to install as the steel. One estimate puts the average reduction in construction schedule at 25%. And then there are the less quantifiable, though no less valuable, aspects of wood’s visual appeal, which can provide advantages in areas like lease rates, worker productivity and student learning. CLT also provides LEED (or other green building rating systems) points for those institutions pursuing a sustainability certification.

2 – Efficiency and simplicity

Save the time and resources inherent in going to market for every project. Simplify procurement and contracts. Ease communication and reduce “up to speed” time.

3 – Design always matters (not just for the signature building)

Even the smallest projects make a difference in the daily lives of the people who use it. House doctors bring the knowledge of the larger system to design in every corner. We design as much as possible for each project, knowing that funding is unpredictable. Design resources can go a long way with your term team. Take Cape Cod Community College. The mid-century campus, nestled into the native landscape of the Cape, was rife with accessibility challenges. By bringing in a civil engineer and landscape architect, we developed comprehensive solutions that not only solve for site and building access, but address aesthetics, native plantings, and stormwater management. The improvements enhanced the college’s identity and make it more attractive to potential students — and earned a design award from the Boston Society of Architects.

Multiple awards and speaking engagements recognizing our expertise in green building and accessibility.

4. Make sure “ordinary” applies to everyone. What may seem expected and ordinary to the mainstream is not so for excluded people, whether it’s an easy and convenient way to enter a building, a chair that fits your body, or enough variety of settings to meet the needs of neurodiverse people. Location speaks loudly – think carefully about the arrangement of spaces and what it communicates, for example “back entrances” for people with mobility challenges. Spend time and design energy on things that people generally pass over or deem unimportant or code-driven.

5. Look for opportunities for flexibility.  Use design to give users more power by providing a light sense of infrastructure that gives people the chance to use the space the way they want to. In 2023, Boston University asked Jones to renovate a 3,000 square foot space to become an LGBTQIA+ resource center.  The project came up in April, and needed to open in time for fall quarter — September. BU had yet to hire a director for the center and the team had little context to work from. We did some peer benchmarking and also brought the project to the Jones EDIB(J) council.  The council recommended that BU build in the potential for visual and acoustic privacy when desired and to “empower the community by making the space flexible. Encourage them to rearrange the space to meet their needs over time - either on the fly or week-to-week." Jones developed a list of over a dozen potential use cases and then came up with furniture layouts for several of those. We kept the materials neutral and gave the future users to build an identity of their own into the space.

Tech resources do offer a range of opportunities. For example, active learning rooms we designed for both Norwich University and Northeastern University, have a main screen at the front of the room where faculty can conduct an introductory brief lecture at the outset of class. Eight-top tables around the perimeter each have a flat screen where students can then conduct group work and problem solving together. The faculty can pull any of the work at these tables back to the main screen to share team process and results with the larger group. These spaces can also be useful "after hours" for students working on group projects.

Identify projects with the greatest impact to users

Limited resources require prioritization. First and foremost, all buildings must be accessible. Secondarily, to provide equal experiences for all visitors to campus (student, faculty, community, etc.), and to beautify. At Massasoit Community College (MCC), the Technology Building had no accessible entrance. Modifying the connection to a nearby building solved this deficiency, while enhancing a program of native plantings on campus.

Reinforce the unique nature of each campus' culture, population, topography, and landscape character

Once the essential elements that physically and culturally define the campus are identified, the job is to determine how best to leverage or enhance them through accessibility measures. For example, Norwich University, with its military heritage, has a traditional culture that emphasizes formality and ceremony; it occupies an expansive rural site marked by rectilinear terraces and plateaus amid extreme grade changes. Here, big and dramatic moves make sense both physically and culturally.

Social Spaces. We know that learning happens everywhere and spaces that promote social interaction strengthen student relationships and sense of community, while facilitating collaboration and the exchange of ideas. As such, we see cafes, lounges, laptop bars, and other in-between spaces as essential to libraries.

2 – Early participation of supplier and installer required

Early and willing engagement with mass timber representatives by both the design team and construction manager is critical for determining the correct approach to documentation and bidding. In the case of public procurement an early timber bid package can provide the necessary hard bid and still allow the installer to join in the design process before construction documents are completed.

3 – Mass timber presents new design opportunities — and challenges

The obvious design opportunity associated with a mass timber structural system is its aesthetic qualities — wood has tremendous visual appeal. Its warmth and beauty has a comforting and uplifting effect on people, and that has documented effects on wellbeing in classrooms and in the office environments.

Because this means exposing at least parts of your building’s structure, design drawings need to be extremely detailed, for example to route conduit and ductwork and locate equipment in ways that are visually appealing, and to accurately account for the different tolerances between wood and steel. This adds to design costs.

Recognize that a simple building geometry works best for CLT. The more complex the shape of the building, the more challenging it is to design a timber structure to support it — not impossible, just more expensive. And if you have your heart set on a masonry façade, think hard about whether CLT is the right solution. CLT is much better suited for lightweight skin systems – wood or cement board panels for example — than masonry, which will need a robust secondary structure to carry it.

4 – Sticky stakeholders

Sometimes you cannot afford to spend the time required to handle the demanding stakeholders and/or small jobs — the “move two walls, repaint and choose new carpet” projects. Your house doc can get it done and you can focus your energy elsewhere.

5 – Outside perspective

Every team benefits from fresh eyes. We work with MIT on a variety of classroom projects that come with a robust set of standards. Still, we are asking questions, challenging assumptions and often piloting ideas along the way based on what we are seeing in other campus learning spaces. We recap and discuss lessons learned at the end of each project and, when appropriate, roll learnings into the standards.

Established a DEI Council whose mission is to drive inclusion in our office and outside it.


Do you want to learn more about our Pre-Professional Mentorship program? Email info@jonesarch.com for more information.

Jones SXSW EDU submission to speak about Inclusive Design, a topic that plays an integral part in bettering design for learning spaces.

Squeak & Hum

“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.”
― John Holt

One of the presumptions we often hear at the outset of a project is that every classroom needs to be dripping with technology. On the contrary, when working with the Faculty of Arts & Sciences at Harvard on a pilot classroom in Harvard Hall, one of the design touchstones was "squeak and hum." Hearing the squeak of the marker on a whiteboard, and the hum of student discussion was deemed the benchmark for success. Faculty were less interested in students being face-down in a laptop or on a shared monitor than they were with this social-collaborative work.

MCC too has a rigorous geometric building and site organization, but its site is relatively compact and flat, a brutalist “concrete carpet” connected by stairs over subtle grade changes. Like its southeastern Massachusetts compatriot, Cape Cod Community College (CCCC), which is tucked gracefully into its native Cape landscape with meandering slopes and subtle grade changes, it merits an approach more akin to watchmaking: painstaking and intricate, with a goal to effect substantial change with subtle moves.

Logically integrate design solutions with infrastructure, maintenance, and operations regimens

This may seem obvious; ask the question anyway: How can what we’re doing affect infrastructure, maintenance and operations? When working with Norwich on the central campus revitalization project, improving the accessibility of the main circulation spine was combined with replacement of the primary steam line, snow storage areas, and new landscape design reinforcing the connection between the Upper Parade Ground and the Chapel.

Inclusive Approach

For any college considering major changes to its library, these eight recommendations will help set the team up for success.

1 – Lean on all constituents

Throughout the process, we lean on key collaborators. The building committee and library staff typically have a vision of revitalized place of research, learning, study, and socialization that cannot be realized in full without their input. Registrars play a role in evaluating classroom typologies available on campus and where gaps existed, as well as utilization rates. The student body is active in the process, in terms of early surveys, and participating in town hall and design meetings – they are also critical in providing post-occupancy feedback. We expect University planners, facilities teams and administration to push our design team to validate our recommendations with our peer review and benchmark data – we come prepared.

Working Principles

During the course of working on these and other projects we’ve developed six principles that form a roadmap for respecting the past while ushering in the future.

1. Listen to the building(s)

Just because a building is home to classrooms, or that it is dedicated to the offices of particular college or school within the university doesn’t mean that is its best use. What is the building telling you it should be? What are the bones of the building saying it’s good for?

We approach this question by figuratively dumping all the program requirements out onto the table and looking fresh at all of the buildings. Then we put it all back in a way that makes sense for the building rather than the college or program. This highest and best use approach helps maintain the basic organizing principles and dimensional characteristics of the existing building. It prioritizes function over “ownership” of a given building by a specific department.

2. It’s ok to have buildings that aren’t ‘owned’ by colleges or schools

It can also ruffle feathers. No dean wants to be told a building is not “theirs” anymore and divesting this idea is a difficult mental hurdle for many university constituents. That said, the benefits — optimized space use and improved interdisciplinary connections among them — ultimately serves everyone better. 

In the case of Norwich, which was undertaking an organizational realignment of the three schools served by the trio of buildings, we looked at the best use of each building in the context of these questions: What spaces need to be dedicated to a College? What can be shared as a common resource, and how do we break down the traditional disciplinary silos to create new opportunities for research and discourse?

Ultimately, three buildings that were each dedicated to a college were reimagined and renovated to optimize spatial use and function. One became a shared resource composed of general-purpose classrooms, seminar rooms, a language resource center, and a writing center. The others are predominately administrative and faculty office space for the College of Liberal Arts with a few small labs, classrooms and seminar rooms.

3. Pay close attention to exterior spaces

Close your eyes for a moment and recall your alma mater. What comes to mind? For me, it’s Funkhouser Drive, the oak-lined walkways and quad, connecting Pence and Miller Halls, home to the studios for the school of architecture at the University of Kentucky. The well-worn walkway between the two was part of our daily routine, going to studio and classes, visiting friends, attending critiques and reviews.

Landscape is the first impression potential students have of the place in which they will spend some of their most formative years — and that first impression lasts. The most memorable spaces on campuses are exterior spaces (quads, lawns, plazas) and this nostalgia is critical for engaging alumni.

At Norwich, the task was to transform the exterior space of the historic academic core from a solely utilitarian solution to a thoughtful and memorable experience. Achieving this meant supporting unique program needs — the mustering, marching, and release of troops in formation — while serving a broader audience of civilian students, alumni, and staff. A tree-lined accessible path down from the Upper Parade ground along an axis centered on the chapel culminates in a platform sized for troop formations. New, barrier free quads are developed in front of Schneider Hall, and between Schneider and Mack Halls. An expanded Memorial Wall runs along the length of a path running north to south through both quads, connecting the academic core with the athletics precinct and armory to the north. A bridge connects Mack Hall to the Upper Parade ground, one of the four floors at which Mack connects to grade, allowing the building to function as an accessible circuit in the heart of campus. A bridge connects Mack Hall to the Upper Parade ground, one of the four floors at which Mack connects to grade, allowing the building to function as an accessible circuit in the heart of campus.

All of these moves are focused on creating a more cohesive and accessible network of quads, axes, and circulation for the academic core and the surrounding campus. Landscape, planting strategies, memorials, and other site elements reinforce each of these moves.

4. Show your work

Projects that involve historic buildings – often at the heart of campus – are extremely sensitive. People are invested emotionally and their opinions matter. Many see the idea of affecting them in any way as potentially damaging to the school culture and heritage. The stakes are higher, the conversations are heavier than a new building, and the need to bring people along paramount to success. 

Naturally this means thoughtful communication at all levels; more importantly it means showing your work. Present evidence of how programmatic or economic data affects the goals, show the results of contextual analysis and detail how the team arrived at the current design. Listen to feedback and show how it has been reflected. This means lots of town hall meetings, lunchtime pin-ups, slide shows, animations; lots of talking and lots of listening to trustees, alumnae, students, citizens and donors. All backed by strong presentation materials that work for fundraising and friend-raising.

5. Partner with experts

For our work on renovations to Harvard Hall, we worked closely with the Harvard Historic Interiors Program. At MIT, when working in the original Main Group buildings, we review projects with their historic interiors team.

At Norwich, the design team worked closely with Vermont’s State Historic Preservation Office to balance historic preservation with code compliance, accessibility, and Norwich's program needs. Renovations preserved critical interior details and several rooms in total, along with an historic staircase, and fireplaces in some faculty offices. Key historic spaces and elements were retained, restored, and are features today. In one case, a wood-lined conference room was disassembled, meticulously restored, and re-installed. Providing proper egress and accessibility for two buildings required additions.

Arriving at solutions like these means tackling conversations early and often. Meet with historic experts to share early concepts, scope historic details that are important to them, and listen to their priorities. Lead regular give-and-take discussions of milestone drawing sets, and discoveries along the way. Lay the groundwork for facing the challenges that will inevitably arise. Respect for the buildings, and the participants, begins with this head-on approach early on, and maintaining them throughout the project.

6. Start talking about logistics from day one

Historic cores are the heart of campus. As such, interventions are very disruptive to student’s daily life and experience.  The buildings rarely have a “back,” but rather are four-sided, making it hard to put an addition on core buildings. They are generally set tight up against other buildings, part of a quad, and with nowhere to go around them.

Certainly this is amplified with urban campuses where we have worked – Harvard, Northeastern, MIT – where university buildings are cheek by jowl with other urban neighbors. But even with a rural campus like Norwich, it is close quarters. This requires tight coordination with the Construction Manager. Understanding the phasing of a project and how the CM will go about executing the construction can inform how you produce the drawings. What sequence they came out in, what kind of enabling work needs to be done for each subsequent phase, and how they all connect?

All of this needs to be considered and parsed out in a way that makes sense while keeping the campus up and running. For Norwich, where we were undertaking three building renovations with additions, one new building, and a major site infrastructure package that ties them together, this meant many iterations with the CM and campus operations, and a flexibility in the field in response to day-to-day challenges.

When working in a historic campus building, or precinct, we picture ourselves on an arc of history.

We are just one moment in the life of this campus, a perspective that requires both humility and pragmatism. Revere the historic building but do not be beholden to it. Make it function for today’s learning enterprise: sustainable, inclusive and energy efficient. Keep it as familiar to returning alumni as it is welcoming to current and prospective students. Balancing these competing forces with respect, thoughtfulness, and innovation is how we preserve the legacy of a historic campus core, making it as relevant for the future as it was the day it was built.

4 – Acoustic considerations are considerable

Anyone who’s lived in an old apartment building with wood floors understands the acoustic properties of wood. While it’s wonderful to use wood as a finish material, keep in mind that it is a hard surface — we’re all glad not to see acoustic ceiling tile, but wood does not take away sound. As such, we need to find ways to absorb and/or mask sound, through baffles and other strategies. For the C. Gerald Lucey Building, we used raised floors to run the majority of power and data required for the space, and then carpeted it. This build up effectively eliminates the concern of footfall noise from a space to the floor below.

6 – Responsiveness

On-call means ready and waiting to mobilize. It also means trust, born of relationships that build over time as teams work together project after project. Productivity improves along with quality. As part of our work with Northeastern on their Innovation campus — a partnership with industry to incubate and launch new ideas in advanced technology — we had weekly meetings to go over a handful of projects in different stages. Frequently we’d get “breaking news” during the meeting regarding the latest venture to commit to the space. Because they always had limited time and funding to prove viability, the spaces that support these enterprises had to be up and running at record speed. Success hinged as much on creative delivery as it did creative design.

Assembled a racially and gender-diverse team: more than half of us are women; more than a quarter are non-white.

Continue to diversify the Jones team to ensure that our perspective includes a range of life experiences spanning multiple cultures, socio-economic backgrounds and identities, especially from groups that have traditionally been excluded from the architectural profession.

Combine a full range of social and environmental sustainability goals

What is the social mandate of the institution? Are there venues for public events? Campuses often have a community responsibility that reaches beyond their immediate user group, which changes how we think about access. A performance hall for example, may need to be accessible to community members on a February evening coming from a remote parking lot, as well as the students walking across the quad from their residence hall.

"I don’t have a problem with the way that I see,” he says. “My only problem is with the way that I’m seen.”
— James Robinson

2 – Survey, survey, survey

The value of surveys cannot be overestimated. To get well-rounded representation, we canvas all of the populations that will be served (faculty, student, staff, and administration). Questions are subjected to trial runs and need to be asked in specific ways. For example, we don’t ask people to rate the importance of twenty-five projects. Rather, we may ask them to spend $100 on twenty-five projects. This way you they are forced to create priorities and we can clearly see what rises to the top.

3 – Build time in for technology testing and training

Don’t skimp on the schedule for installing, testing, commissioning, training, and troubleshooting—all of which needs to happen in a dust-free setting after construction is complete. Faculty cannot expect to walk into a high-tech active learning classroom on day one and hit the ground running; they need training!


“Transforming Learning at Norwich University: Revitalizing a Historic Campus Core,” Sarah Tarbet, Michelle Crowley (Crowley Cottrell Landscape Architecture), and Aron Temkin (Dean of the College of Professional Schools) lectured on this project at the SCUP North Atlantic Regional Conference in Rochester, NY, in spring 2019.

“Envisioning a New Academic Quad in Context,” Marc Perras and Michelle Crowley (Crowley Cottrell Landscape Architecture) gave a tour and symposium on the project for AIA Vermont in 2018. 

5 – Coordination is key

We cannot overstate the amount of coordination that is needed between the design team and construction manager during design, and with subcontractors post bid. Close collaboration is critical to achieving the aesthetic goals inherent in the use of mass timber. For the C. Gerald Lucey Building project, we had eight months of weekly calls with the subs to ensure installation met design goals.

6 – Some designs may still require variances

For example, while CLT is more fire resistant than steel, many municipal codes still require protective cladding for wood framing. That said, the codes are evolving as the material becomes more mainstream. This is one of the many reasons that you should engage local authorities having jurisdiction early in the process to brief them on the fact that you are using a wood structural system.

7 – Continuity

There’s no substitute for institutional knowledge. When you know how an organization works, you know how to solve its problems — and how not to. We often pilot new ideas or advance organizational goals with small projects that build cohesive benefits over time.

At University of Massachusetts-Amherst, we evaluated Whitmore Hall, a cast-in-place concrete “brutalist” building that serves as the main administration and student service building. Our study looked comprehensively at the program offerings in the building, and how better to arrange these to improve workflow and student engagement. The undercurrent of the study was a focus on the image of the building as a concrete behemoth, plagued by the environmental challenges of buildings of this era. Studies focused on daylighting strategies, covered courtyards, removal of berms to open up walls, improvements to envelope and dated building systems all pointed to a more sustainable model for Whitmore’s next 50 years of life, and by extension, the lives of other brutalist buildings on the campus.

Engaged a leadership training consultant through 2022-23 for a one-year project to educate staff and examine firm practices related to employment and advancement, strategic planning, and organizing our team around inclusionary policies.

Established an equitable staff support and mentoring policy, recognizing that each person has different circumstances and needs, and therefore people need different resources and opportunities allocated to them to thrive.

Active learning is best supported by spaces that can adapt on the fly — from face-forward lecture, to small group work, to discussion, and back to closing lecture — all within an hour and a half. Technology, furniture, lighting, and other systems all need to follow suit.

Adaptability means different things to different groupsto a university planner, it may mean how well the space may be modified over the 75-year life of a building; that is, does it have "good bones?" To facilities managers, it may mean how easily the room can be modified from semester-to-semester or year-to-year. For faculty, adaptability is increasingly a question of how well the space can flex within a class period. Understanding these differences is critical to responding in ways that meet stakeholder needs over the long term.

Seize Opportunities

Managing stormwater offers opportunities to improve accessibility and environmental impacts. When discussing the CCCC campus identity with stakeholders, they identified more with the wooded, natural landscape rather than the brick and concrete of much of the campus circulation. This informed the design approach, which reinforces the system of fluid paths while introducing a stormwater collection and management system featuring native plantings, swales, and drainage structures that straddle and duck under the path system. Bridges cross over these swales to provide accessible entries to buildings.

By opening up the main campus entry visually as well as improving access, the entire campus feels more welcoming, providing a completely different first impression to potential students that reinforces the school’s recruitment strategy.

4 – Pay attention to seat types and allocation

You can have as many seats in a library as there are undergraduates (although that would be a stretch!) but if the blend of seat types is misaligned with student expectations, they will not be used. A diverse blend of seat types is important. It is equally important to zone and distribute these within the building. A mezzanine should not be all a single seat type —all open tables, for example. Provide a diverse blend of seat types, distributed in a diverse manner, but clearly zoned within the building.

5 – Support social learning

The concept of “see and be seen” so often leveraged in campus centers and other student life settings has made the leap to libraries. What we refer to as “social learning,” or groups of students sitting together, with multiple devices, working on discrete projects, is dominating library space. So much of this generation is about group work, as well as being “alone together.” That is being reflected in the space, furniture, and amenities.

“Bad libraries build collections. Good libraries build services. Great libraries build communities.”
― R David Lankes

6 – Make room for silence

The pendulum has swung about as far as it can toward group work, collaborative study, and social learning. Most libraries retain quiet study floors intermingled with stack space despite the move away from solitary work. More recently, we have started incorporating quiet study rooms, often nested within more open floor plates composed of group work areas.

Despite the shift toward social spaces, libraries are not student centers. They are serious places of research and learning. Research and learning can be open, loud, and collaborative, but it cannot all be that way. Quiet (or silent!) spaces persist for good reason.

7 – Anticipate capital costs coming down as demand increases

Costs vary by region. In New England right now, higher costs for mass timber center around the fact that our region lacks a robust field of contractors that have experience installing CLT. That’s quickly changing, and costs will adjust as supply and demand stabilize. Ultimately, mass timber will likely be close to equal to or even less than the cost of concrete and steel, especially if the vision for revitalizing the Northeast’s forestry industry is realized.

8 – There are so many good reasons to use wood

We love its design possibilities, its effects on health and wellbeing, and most of all, that mass timber is a renewable material with the power to reduce the building sector’s contribution to global climate change, and the potential to breathe new life into an industry that has been vital to our regional economy. It’s not a silver bullet, but it is a game changer, and Jones Architecture is thrilled to be playing. 


Is there a downside to hiring a house doc?
Some would argue they inherently lack “fresh eyes” — that, as an extension of your team they won’t see the forest for the trees. We would remind them that architects undertake a range of projects of various types, sizes and degrees of complexity with a variety of clients across all sectors in many locations. This exposure keeps us fresh and in tune with trends across the competitive landscape. Indeed, with multiple house-doctor engagements comes deep insight of how other organizations — those like yours, and those completely different — are leveraging their real estate. 

Created systems of support, dialogue, and advocacy that are strengthened by our differences as well as our similarities.

Set a goal to provide at least two leadership opportunities for non-white, non-male people in the coming year.

Committed to broaching client sustainability conversations at project onset that include DEI. For example, at Massasoit Community College we have teamed with a small M/WBE architect to give us a more fulsome understanding of the population that MCC serves. With this partner, we are engaging the campus DEI team to establish processes that ensure planning and design meet the needs of the student body.

Density differs according to teaching modes fixed seat with tablet arms, fixed table with loose seats (straight), fixed table with loose seats (curved), fixed table with loose seats (horseshoe), loose tables and chairs, loose tablet-armchairs, and on and on.

Renovations that shift seat type from more dense models of fixed seating to more adaptable models of flexible seating ensure that the resultant decrease in seating count aligns with the needs of the institution more broadly. While faculty may clamor for more active learning classrooms that necessitate flexible spaces, the registrar, provost, and administration may have their eye on total seat count in classrooms. This can create a tension between registrar needs for denser, fixed, higher-seat count rooms, and faculty needs for flexible rooms that necessitate lower-seat counts. Balancing that tension over the entire portfolio of classrooms should be seen as an opportunity.

Creating a prototype classroom is a low-cost way to evaluate needs and efficacy before making a major investment in classroom changes we often develop a pilot classroom that faculty can use for a semester or more before engaging in a major capital project. This low-risk venture serves to align the institution's expectations across many stakeholders, evaluate new technologies, give furniture a test drive, and generally work out the kinks of a new kind of space. Gathering the feedback from the many constituents that use these rooms — faculty, teaching assistants, students, staff, IT and AV personnel— during a trial period is critical. We recommend hosting lunchbox sessions in the actual room to discuss the pros and cons in person, and in situ.

Think about when to disappear, and when to show up big.

Sometimes, there is an opportunity for a grand gesture to demonstrate a connection that solves for universal access. At Norwich’s Mack Hall, the bridge connecting the third floor of the building to the Upper Parade Ground spans over the Memorial Walkway and is a big architectural gesture that suits the scale and culture the campus. Far more often, it is the micro adjustments of grades, walkways, building entries, edge conditions, and material treatments like those of CCCC and MCC that feel as if they have always been there (or should have been).

7– Create versatile spaces

The pace of technology change and the behavioral shifts it drives means that versatile spaces, easily adaptable from one mode to another while maintaining their intrinsic character, are instrumental to the future viability of the library.

8 – Invest in strategic partnerships

With collections increasingly available digitally, floor space for seating, collaborative work areas, and new “tenants” opens up. In the past decade, as programmatic diversity has exploded, libraries have forged new alliances and partnerships that add vitality to the library, create opportunities for new synergies, and increase the gate count. An explosion of partner programs has emerged within libraries – writing centers, centers for teaching and learning, tutoring centers, language labs, career centers, counseling centers, media centers, general use classrooms, among others --- all pointed toward student-scholar success.

The Jones Architecture Library of Academic Libraries

Approximately half the libraries in our database date from the last decade, and the balance from before that time. This 10-year window gives us a good inflection point that we use to understand current and established trends in library design and planning. Although concentrated in New England, the spectrum of academic libraries that we survey spans the country. Jones’ “library library” captures information ranging from hours of operation, volumes, periodicals, vintage or renovation history to detailed notes on partner programs. Key components include:

People. Our survey spans colleges and universities whose undergraduate FTE populations range from 1,500 to more than 40,000, with an average around 6,000.

Culture. Our survey includes small liberal arts colleges, private schools, public schools, major land grant universities, and military institutions. Each institution has a specific character and sense of place, and it is this rich diversity that can support the vast spectrum of student personalities that populate the American academic landscape. This cultural diversity can drive differentiation and unique conditions within the library that are best captured anecdotally. This is precisely why our methodology is to visit each campus in person so we can witness these conditions firsthand.

Seat Count. A critical benchmark for guiding our design process, we survey the total seat count in the library and evaluate that against the undergraduate FTE population.

Seat Type. More important than simple quantity, the blend of seat types is critical. For example, five hundred seats, 80% of which are study carrels, create a particular character for the library. To that end, we track seven seat types: carrels, desks, workstations, soft seating, open table, group study, and instruction. Shifts in this blend have occurred over the past 20 years. The trend toward more group study, soft seating, and instruction space is now well established, having moved away from carrels, desks, and workstations. Open table study (the classic “reading room” environment) remains a persistent model.

Service Point Administration. Existing library service points were historically distributed --- reference desk, circulation desk, and other specialty functions arrayed around the main floor and entry. Increasingly, we are seeing “super-desks” where the first point of contact for library patrons can answer 90% of the questions that may arise. This cross-trained point person can re-direct more specialized questions to the right librarian as needed. Not only a more efficient staffing model, it also gives clarity to patrons as they go to one place for everything.

C. Gerald Lucey Building

Mass timber structural elements for the C. Gerald Lucey Building included CLT floor and roof panels, glulam beams and glulam columns. CLT wall panels were eliminated due to fire code requirement of cladding, and glulam diagonal braces were eliminated to forego variance process.

  • Volume of wood products used: 333 cubic meters (11,763 cubic feet)
  • According to the Woodworks Calculator, U.S. and Canadian forests grow this much wood in: 1 minute
  • Total potential carbon benefit: 362 metric tons
    • Carbon stored in the wood: 261 Metric Tons.
    • Avoided greenhouse gas emissions: 101 Metric Tons.

Others might say the house doc is fine for the low-profile projects, but for signature engagements it’s important to look elsewhere. Maybe. And maybe not. Think twice before dismissing a house doc for big, bold architectural projects. Are you making assumptions based on the role you have used them for in the past, rather than their talent and capacity?

We are a small office of creative people enriched by both our differences and our similarities. As a group, we are committed to the following principles of conduct:

  • Be willing to broaden your horizons
  • Hold courageous conversations
  • Lead with respect and curiosity
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

The Long View

Regardless, providing improved access to buildings also creates more equitable access to programs and resources provided by these institutions. This aids in student recruitment and retention, as well as community outreach, providing long-term stability for the college. When this access also supports a self-maintaining ecosystem of planting, stormwater management, and wildlife, it not only offers aesthetic and wellness benefits, but allows the campus to spend facility resources elsewhere.

On the Horizon

Each institution we work with is unique, and their libraries cleave to the culture of the place. Our database provides a basis of comparison to peer institutions but is not a formula for success on its own. The alignment of the character and needs of an institution with what we are seeing in the marketplace requires judgment, deep discussion, and iteration after iteration. Some things we see shifting in this landscape include: a subtle swing back toward quiet study, new strategic partnerships that broaden resources for faculty and students, a variety of collaborative work environments, digital scholarship opportunities, and development of “sandbox” teaching environments for use by librarians and faculty.

“The work of Jones Architecture at the Department of Unemployment Assistance in Brockton exemplifies a profoundly humane and increasingly important approach to sustainability. The planning of spaces, material choices, and connections to place, daylight and even the canopy of the trees on the terrace are centered on human comfort and wellbeing. This humane form of sustainability is critical for the design of workplaces where people spend so much of their lives, sometimes in stressful jobs. The smart organization of structure and systems is evidence that there is beauty in simplicity and adaptability."

 — Michelle Laboy, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Northeastern University

Many architectural firms eschew the role of a house doctor. They assume the projects are small, or mundane; they fear being pigeon-holed, or missing out on the chance to make their mark. We see it differently — we think they’re the ones missing out.

The work of a house doctor can vary wildly — both in scope and the user group served. It encompasses planning, design and construction, and can be a focused area of a building, whole buildings, or precincts of campuses. The latter is typically focused on a department, floor plate, or area of a building. It may also take the form of addressing deferred maintenance challenges. Regardless of the scope or scale, these projects are all important, often represent an opportunity for transformation, and can fundamentally change the day-to-day life of users. Small projects can lead to big solutions that shape the evolution of your organization. We’d never want to miss out on that, and neither should you.

Classrooms wear many hats; set priorities for how to serve multiple audiences.

From September to May, Monday through Friday, 8AM to 4PM, classrooms across campus are used for their primary function — teaching students. Although this is the primary audience, there are myriad classroom uses that occur "off-hours". Summer extension classes and evening continuing education programs leverage these resources. Recording for distance learning and online simulcast of in-person classes broaden the audience to remote students across the globe. Conferences and professional development courses for University faculty and staff, and their guests, take over classroom buildings on long weekends. Increasingly, universities leave classrooms open and available for students to do group work in the evening.

The occasions for custom solutions are rare, but necessary.

Although we preach diversity, adaptability, and general use classroom approaches to best support a broad range of pedagogical styles and functions, there are applications that call for tailored solutions. These may have particular requirements related to acoustic isolation or control, audio-visual or IT systems, technology, finishes, equipment, lighting, or other characteristics.


Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Book Chapter “Leveraging Research to Guide Fundamental Changes in Learning: A Case Study at Kreitzberg Library, Norwich University,” Chapter 13 in Academic Libraries and the Academy: Strategies and Approaches to Demonstrate Your Value, Impact, and Return on Investment, (Britto, Marwin and Kirsten Kinsley; Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2018).

Designing for access is so much more than ramps and handrails. It’s an empathetic and holistic way of thinking that aims to integrate the broadest possible set of opportunities of a given project in ways that bring people together rather than setting them apart. Solutions appear simple, or better yet, don’t appear at all to the everyday user. Which means they are underpinned by a complex process marked by thoughtful and thorough analysis of conditions, conducted by experienced field teams with comprehensive knowledge of the technical requirements of universal design, and a client committed to an inclusive outcome.

Aren’t we supposed to be saving trees?
Yes. The whole calculation of embodied energy and sequestration relative to mass timber — which some scientists question — depends on preserving old growth forests and responsible forest management. It is critical that designers specify only salvaged wood or wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in mass timber projects. This means the products come from forests that are managed to reduce habitat destruction and optimize growing period, then sustainably harvested and replanted as part of a larger strategy of carbon sequestration.  

The most important aspect of sustainability in terms of mass timber is its embodied energy. According to Wood for Good, an organization that advocates for sustainable wood construction, concrete requires five times the amount of energy to go from raw material to finished product, while steel requires 24 times the amount of energy. Then there’s the fact that wood sequesters carbon, unlike its concrete and steel counterparts, which introduce more carbon into the atmosphere. And, because wood is a good insulator, less energy is needed to heat and cool wood buildings.


“Cross Laminated Timber and Public Procurement,” Marc Perras with Jeff Freitas (Project Engineer, DCAMM), Jennifer McClain (Principal, RSE Associates), and Dave Capaldo (Director of Public Construction, BOND) presented in December 2020 at the Architecture Boston Expo (ABX) Virtual Tradeshow.

“Mass Timber Construction in the Northeast,” Marc Perras presented in May 2021 at the Building Energy Boston NESEA (Northeast Sustainable Energy Association) Conference.

2022 CMAA Award! BOND Building Construction, our partner on the C. Gerald Lucey Building constructed with cross-laminated timber for DCAMM’s Department of Unemployment Assistance offices in Brockton, MA was recognized by the CMAA/Construction Management Association of America with a New England Chapter Project Achievement Award.

On season 2, episode 13 of the High Profile Build Better podcast"Achieving Sustainability Goals with CLT Building Project," Anastasia Barnes talks with Marc Perras, associate principal at Jones Architecture and Jon Rossini, project manager at Bond Building Construction, about the new C. Gerald Lucey building project for the DUA. As the Commonwealth’s first CLT project of this scale using only public funds, Perras and Rossini talk about the sustainable design elements of the DUA building, and how cross-laminated timber can be used to achieve sustainability goals in a variety of construction projects.

“Thank you for pulling this off under such a tight timeline. Jones Architecture is raising the bar for our other house docs —we wish all firms were as good as you folks are!”
—Joe MacKinnon, Director of Facilities, Cape Cod Community College

Jones Contracts for Ongoing Work
Boston University
Brandeis University
Cape Cod Community College
City of Boston Public Facilities Department
Division of Capital Asset Management & Maintenance
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts State College Building Authority
Massasoit Community College
North Shore Community College
Northeastern University
Northern Essex Community College
Roxbury Community College
Salem Five Bank
Salem State University
TD Garden
Tufts University
University of Massachusetts – Amherst
University of Massachusetts – Boston
University of Massachusetts – Lowell
Harvard University
University of Massachusetts Building Authority

“I just want to be able to connect with people,” Robinson says. “It’s because I really live in your world that I need your help overcoming the distance between us.”

Architects, along with our colleagues in the landscape and engineering professions, have the opportunity with the built environment to help shrink the distances between people rather than magnify them. We would be foolish not to make the most of it.



“Brutal Honesty about Student Services at UMass-Amherst,” Rick Jones with Jeff Dalzell (Project Planner and Manager in Campus Planning, UMass-Amherst) and Naomi Cottrell (Principal, Crowley Cottrell) presented in March 2022 at SCUP North Atlantic Regional Conference.

“The Innovation Campus at Northeastern University: Bridging the Gap to Industry,” Dan Ollila with Jim Brand (Director of Space and Capital Planning, Northeastern University) and Peter Boynton (CEO, Kostas Research Institute at Northeastern University, LLC) presented in March 2020 at SCUP North Atlantic Regional Conference.

“Overcoming Accessibility Challenges with Inclusive Landscapes,” Sarah Tarbet with Christopher Becker (Statewide Accessibility Initiative, DCAMM), Carlo Urmy (Designer, Crowley Cottrell), and Jennifer Brooke (Principal, Lemon Brooke, LLC) presented in December 2020 at the ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX) Virtual Tradeshow.

A word on culture.

Beyond the intrinsic physical characteristics of classrooms, there are cultural differences at every institution that necessitate unique solutions. MIT insists on chalkboards; whiteboards are verboten. Olin College of Engineering stresses that each entering class is a collective group, and the design studio is designed to support that ethos. Norwich University's history as a military academy brings structure and organization that may not be found elsewhere. Some colleges or schools operate independently within the university where they are housed; others are managed centrally. We inquire about these nuances and embrace them as part of our design.


Overcoming Accessibility Challenges with Inclusive Landscapes,” Sarah Tarbet with Christopher Becker (Statewide Accessibility Initiative, DCAMM), Carlo Urmy (Designer, Crowley Cottrell), and Jennifer Brooke (Principal, Lemon Brooke, LLC) presentedin December 2020 at the ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX) Virtual Tradeshow.


Marc Perras Speaker Interview: Advancing Mass Timber Construction 2022.

Marc Perras provided a presentation, Lessons Learned Designing a Mass Timber Building in a Public Procurement Environment and tour of the C. Gerald Lucey Building for the Advancing Mass Timber Construction Conference.

2023 ENR Best Project Award-Office/Retail/Mixed-Use Category. 2022 CMAA Project Achievement Award. Sustainable Construction Innovation, 2022 Award Recipient. Awarded by Built Environment Plus (BE+) and convened practitioner community at the Green Building Showcase for our CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) project: Mass Timber for Mass Workers, The C. Gerald Lucey Building in Brockton, MA.

Marc Perras and South County Post & Beam's Ethan Biederman collaborated on an article for High Profile's December 2022 Green Supplement Issue highlighting the sustainable and economic benefits of utilizing mass timber. The Promise of CLT: Top 6 Reasons for Using Mass Timber.

Marc Perras and Sarah Tarbet of Jones Architecture are featured speakers at the North Shore Technology Council Presentation, Building Sustainably: Trends in Green Architecture in April 2024.

On the Horizon

Hybrid is Here to Stay.

As we appear to turn the corner on the Covid-19 pandemic, our clients are reacting in different ways, but one underlying theme emerges: hybrid learning is here to stay. There is a consensus that there will be other pandemics or crises. Universities need to be ready to flip to remote settings at a moment’s notice. Faculty who may have been resistant to the technologies that support remote learning were forced to tackle them over the last year; some have even embraced the concept. The crisis also spawned invention — low-cost and user-friendly online collaborative software, guest speakers from across the globe, online breakout sessions for students, and integrating media into learning in new ways. As with our workplace clients, who are struggling with questions from employees about continuing to work remotely at least in a part-time capacity, higher education is hearing the same from faculty.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
― W.B. Yeats

Technology on tap.

We are now working with several clients on technology improvements in an effort to overhaul classroom inventories to support hybrid settings. At a basic level, this means projector upgrades, cameras, microphones, and software. Many institutions are taking it as an opportunity to improve related technologies — assistive listening for example — to create more inclusive settings for their student body. The rapid turnover of technology (two-five-year lifespan) requires that these upgrades be focused on the backbone and infrastructure upgrade more than the device; we want to create solutions that can be readily updated.

Seat counts.

The tension between open and flexible classrooms, which necessarily have a lower seat count, and dense and fixed-seating classrooms, which result in a higher seat count has been discussed above. Registrars and provosts tasked with meeting the demand for seats in a given period are sometimes at odds with faculty who want to teach with active learning, high-touch methods. We are curious whether hybrid learning will present an opportunity to have half the class in-person in a flexible active-learning model, and the other half remote in breakout rooms online. Populations could alternate weekly in-person and remote. This would relieve the pressure on the tension between these room types.


Buildings of the Past, Classrooms of the Future at Harvard University,” Sam Clement, Anne-Sophie Divenyi (Senior Capital Project Manager, Harvard FAS), Cara Noferi (Senior Planner, Harvard FAS), and Annie Rota (Director of Academic Technology, Harvard FAS); SCUP North Atlantic Regional Conference; New Haven, CT; Spring 2020.

“Trends in Classroom Design and Technology,” Rick Jones and Michael Pincus (Vantage Technology Consulting Group) gave a tour and symposium at Norwich University for AIA Vermont in 2018.

“Transforming Learning at Norwich University: Revitalizing a Historic Campus Core,” Sarah Tarbet, Michelle Crowley (Crowley Cottrell Landscape Architecture), and Aron Temkin (Dean of the College of Professional Schools); SCUP North Atlantic Regional Conference; Rochester, NY; Spring 2019.


“Technology and the Classroom,” Rick Jones, Parke Rhoads (Principal, Vantage Technology Consulting Group) and Jeanne Narum (Learning Spaces Collaboratory); Educause Learning Initiative Conference; Anaheim, CA; February 2019.

“Catalyzing Change in the Classroom at Olin College of Engineering,” Rick Jones, Aaron Hoover (Assistant Professor, Olin College of Engineering); SCUP North Atlantic Regional Conference; Worcester, MA; Spring 2017; also presented to Boston Society of Architects Roundtable in partnership with Steelcase.

Planning for Learning Environments: Maximizing your Institutional Resources,” Rick Jones; Learning Environments Conference; Orlando, FL; 2013; also presented at the Society for Technology and Learning in Higher Education Annual Conference; Montreal, CA; Summer 2012.