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An academic ‘precinct’ brings arts and sciences together

Building Team Awards

An academic ‘precinct’ brings arts and sciences together

Wofford College’s Chandler Center for Environmental Studies receives BD+C’s Silver Building Team Award.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | December 2, 2021
Wofford College's Chandler Center for Environmental Studies is positioned near and athletic arena and arts center on campus.
Front entrance of the Chandler Center for Environmental Studies at Wofford College. This project was part of a multi-year plan to update the campus’ science and arts facilities. Chandler opened in time for classes in Fall 2020. Images: Kris Decker/Firewater Photography


Chandler Center for Environmental Studies at Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.


Project Information

Project size: 20,000 sf

Project cost: $8.2 million

Construction time: September 2019 – August 2020

Delivery method: CM at risk


Building Team

Submitting firm: McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture

Owner: Wofford College

Architect: McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture

Structural engineer: Britt, Peters & Associates

Mechanical and Plumbing engineer: Crow & Bulman Engineering

Electrical engineer: Matrix Engineering

General contractor and Construction manager: Robins & Morton

Judges’ comments

“While the building at first glance is unassuming, the use of mass timber really warms the interior to create an inviting learning environment. The clean execution of the project shows the fruits of the Architect’s and [owner’s] decades-long relationship.”

“Efficiencies in construction and thoughtfulness toward end-user program.”

“A project and presentation that check all of the boxes for me. A well-planned, collaborative effort that serves a purpose, is environmentally conscious, and [will teach] future generations.”

Essay by submitting firm:

This project is the culmination of nearly a decade-long collaboration among Wofford College, architect McMillan Pazdan Smith (MPS), and contractor Robins & Morton to develop Wofford a cutting-edge, 21st Century campus that would also include a new fine arts center and basketball arena among other smaller projects.

In fact, the relationship between MPS and Wofford goes back more than 25 years, so there was already bankable trust between the partners going into the Chandler project. And the owner was highly engaged, with the school’s president, department chair, faculty, and even a new professor hired by the school part way through the process providing ideas for the programming and design.

Goals and Objectives


A first floor lobby with a view of the Richardson Center for the Arts.

​​Chandler Center’s first floor lobby. The Richardson Center for the Arts is in the background. A major goal of the project was to connect the arts and sciences together. 

A key goal identified early was the creation of a singular academic precinct that could bring together the arts and sciences.

By the time advanced design planning for the Chandler Center had begun, this team had already successfully completed (in 2017) the Richardson Indoor Stadium and 54,000-sf Rosalind S. Richard Center for the Arts that are adjacent to the Chandler Center for which MPS worked closely with the school’s Environmental Studies department to identify key programmatic needs and benchmarks for the building.

A major challenge of this project was meeting an aggressive construction timeline during a pandemic. Effective communication and regular team meetings helped the project meet the school’s goal for completion prior to the 2020-2021 school year. This was done despite the rise of COVID-19 during the final months of the project.

Another challenge was the building site wedged between two academic buildings and a greenhouse that the school didn’t want disturbed. One side of the site was substantially elevated over the other, which required creative solutions to make the academic programming and floor plan work. Finally, an old, existing structure on the site had to be demolished, which required asbestos abatement and removal.

The use of mass timber construction time by 25 percent.
Construction showing mass timber frame of the building. Using mass timber saved 25 percent on construction time compared to steel
and concrete construction, in addition to environmental benefits of using lower carbon emissions material. 

The use of structural mass timber helped keep this project on schedule. Off-site fabrication of panels and beams shortened construction time by nearly 25 percent. The use of mass timber also reduced the overall carbon footprint of the building and its onsite construction waste.

The building is Green Globe-certified and features some of the latest in building sustainability features, including systems to capture rainwater for irrigation, a partial green roof, and solar roof panels. Chandler is one of only six new construction projects certified with Three Green Globes in South Carolina, putting Wofford College on the cutting edge of campus sustainability.

Solar panels were among this project's sustainable elements.
Aerial image of the completed building. Note the photovoltaic panels on the roof that help power the building. 

The End Result

The Chandler Center hosts state-of-the-art laboratory space, a seminar room, outdoor patio, garden spaces, and classroom/office space for the school’s Department of Environmental Studies and other Wofford science departments. Classrooms feature movable wall systems that provide more usage flexibility. A large lecture space on the second floor can also be used for campus conference meetings and events.

A goal of the project was to create a building that is a teaching tool. This was achieved using exposed and color-coded utility lines to instruct students on how the building functions, and a dashboard monitor to showcase energy and water consumption levels.

The building is located near the Rosalind Richardson Center for the Arts, as first outlined in the campus master plan, bringing together the arts and sciences on campus. Creating this fusion among the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences makes Chandler the final piece in the campus’s transformation.

Read about all Building Team Award Winners

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