On any given day, approximately 10,000 students will walk the halls of the two new Social Sciences and Humanities Buildings on the University of Connecticut (UConn) campus. The complex is the most technologically advanced building project on campus to date, and with such a high volume of human traffic on a daily basis, it isn’t lacking for attention. Built by Skanska, one of the ten largest project-development-and-construction firms in the world—and a leader in the education sector—the project is composed of a West Building, which opened for the fall semester in 2011, and the East Building, which Skanska will complete this year. Skanska project executive Richard Murphy and corporate environmental manager Myrrh Caplan gave gb&d a tour of some of the project’s most notable features.


Location Storrs, CT
Size 68,000 square feet (West), 132,000 square feet (East)
Completed 2011 (West), 2012 (East)
Program Classrooms, offices, and auditoriums for five social sciences and humanities departments


The exteriors of the new buildings form a common design thread between both East and West structures, their red-brick construction and copper accents creating a colonial feel. Skanska used copper for its durability, lasting quality, and pleasant patina coloring over time. A large amount of landscaped space was formed by a decision to minimize the foundation’s footprint and bring the project vertical. The resulting landscape gives an inviting, comforting effect and also made possible the Maximize Open Space credit on the LEED scorecard (Skanska is targeting Gold certification). The area also includes a retention pond that stores all rainwater onsite. Less visible to students are the 11,000 square feet of living roof, which cover nearly half of the building’s roof area.

UConn Social Sciences and Humanities Buildings


The reduction of energy and water use was an important point of emphasis for the design team, which expects these features to pick up many of the buildings’ LEED credits. All state-funded projects in Connecticut are required to be LEED certified, but the discussion surrounding the sustainability of the UConn project began in October 2009, before the implementation of the statewide LEED requirement. Skanska installed dual-flush toilets and automatic urinals throughout, leading to an estimated 52.5-percent water-use reduction below baseline. And the advanced energy systems installed are anticipated to produce a return of 46 percent energy savings below baseline.


Construction Skanska
Architect Leers Weinzapfel Associates
Civil Engineer URS Corp.
Landscape Architect Stephen Stimson Associates
Structural Engineer Lim Consultants
MEP/FP/IT Engineer BVH Integrated Services with Philip R. Sherman
Geotechnical Engineer Haley & Aldrich
Lighting Lam Partners
LEED Consultant Viridian Energy and Environmental


As with many college campuses, building space is at a premium at UConn, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Buildings are built on some of the last open green space. Local contractor Milton C. Beebe and Sons performed the site concrete work for the West Building and all the excavation and foundation work on the East. Though the construction required no teardown of existing buildings, the existence of underground utilities offered a minor challenge.


The project’s location in the relatively remote city of Storrs could have presented a challenge for waste diversion. Nonetheless, Skanska diverted nearly 100 percent of its waste from landfills through diligence and a strong partnership with its hauling company. Using regional materials also was important, and the company’s commitment to that effort led to an anticipated two LEED points, plus an additional Innovation credit for sourcing more than 30 percent of all building materials from within 500 miles.

UConn Social Sciences and Humanities Buildings


Certification LEED Gold (expected)
Roof A green roof covers 11,000 ft2 of the West Building
Landscape Retention pond filters rainwater runoff onsite
Water Dual-flush toilets result in more than 50% savings
Recycling Nearly 100% of construction waste diverted from landfills
Materials Durable, renewable, and/or local materials include copper, slate, and bamboo


In contrast to their exteriors, the interiors have a more modern aesthetic. “All of the millwork on the inside of the building is made from bamboo,” Murphy says. This includes the wall paneling found in the two large lecture halls of the West Building, the millwork for the classrooms and common areas, and the teachers’ lecterns. The flooring in all of the corridors is slate, another natural product that Skanska imported from Vermont. The use of the bamboo, as well as other durable and environmentally sound products, is meant to be both appealing and educational for the students. “It was important to keep communicating the message that this was a green building,” Caplan says.

The courtyard between the two buildings is inviting as well as worthy of a LEED point for maximizing open space.