DPR Delivers a Clemson Campus Showpiece with the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

The merger of innovation and technology pervades newly constructed business think tank environment.

As students return to classes at Clemson University, they’ll take advantage of the latest DPR Construction-built project to open its doors on the South Carolina campus. The new Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business signals that Clemson Powers Business. Overlooking the heart of campus with views to Lake Hartwell and the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond, the future-focused facility offers a collaborative, inspiring space for students and educators alike, while also facilitating an enhanced interface between academics and industry meant to attract the best and the brightest.

Designed by LS3P in partnership with LMN Architects as a think tank/collision space environment that cultivates social and intellectual interaction, the five-story, 176,000-sq.-ft. facility more than doubles the space the College of Business formerly occupied in Sirrine Hall since 1938.

Clemson Business School
Clemson University’s Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business. Courtesy of Mark Herboth Photography

"Innovation and technology played an integral role in the design and construction of this project," said DPR's Rick Horner. "We deployed an array of virtual and design construction tools, from a high level of BIM and virtual reality walkthroughs that allowed for input by end-users during construction to 4D scheduling in the field, virtual skin mockups and much more."

DPR helped build a simulated office/teaching suite in the existing building, Sirrine Hall, even before construction began on the new building. The Sirrine Hall mock-up space was an inspired idea of the former Dean of the College of Business, Bobby McCormick.  After visiting several other business schools and corporate office facilities to observe how they work, interact and learn he decided he would like to test some of these ideas in an existing space in Sirrine Hall before committing to a building layout/size for the new Clemson College of Business building. Each month Clemson faculty rotated through the space, providing feedback on everything from the layout to the furniture and lighting.

"The intent of the mockup space was to get a real feel for different office sizes, teaming areas, informal gathering areas and even what should be the appropriate size for the Dean's Office," said Horner. "This experiment went beyond the testing of size, space and layout but was also a place to look at various interior building finishes, light, HVAC ductwork configurations, hardware, ceiling types, furniture, audiovisual systems/devices, electronic room scheduling devices and even the potential use of electrochromic glazing to alleviate some of the heat gain/glare issues that have been experienced on campus upon the opening of several new buildings."

Because of the successful testing of this glass in the Mock-Up space, the electronic glass was incorporated into the large southern exposure of the high-volume atrium in the new facility. Even former Clemson University President, James Frazier Barker, was very excited about this technology after experiencing extreme glare and heat gain issues in Lee Hall where he now teaches.

Grand stairs
The building’s grand stair also serves as a collaboration space for students. Courtesy of Mark Herboth Photography

In addition to numerous technology-equipped classrooms and learning laboratories, the facility houses faculty and staff support offices, the college’s institutes and many shared learning spaces. The predominantly brick and glass twin towers structure features an open design with a soaring five-story atrium. The North and South towers are connected above ground by an expansive outdoor stairway leading to a plaza that overlooks the historic Old Main clock tower and Bowman Field.

"This new facility is truly a landmark building for Clemson University," said Clemson's Paul M. Borick, Project Manager, Capital Projects. "A colleague of mine who is an architect and the AVP for Facilities at the University of Nebraska made the following comment after seeing an image of the grand stair: 'That has to be one of the most dynamic exterior space I have ever seen in all of academia.'"

The new Clemson College of Business was designed for modern learning and teaching at the higher education level. The think tank environment includes collision spaces, open seating areas and team rooms ensuring students the opportunity to collaborate. The locations of these team rooms were intentionally placed to facilitate the interaction of students and faculty. The Quiet Study Lounge, which features an expansive wood-paneled wall constructed from the trees that were harvested from the site and will be displayed in perpetuity, was placed within the complex so that it almost hovers over the main building entrance, allowing students direct visual access to the grand plaza. The building has an equal split of active learning spaces and lecture halls equipped with AV capabilities for virtual learning, providing the ability to adapt to the changing format of how classes are delivered.

Atrium features smart glass
The five-story atrium features smart glass to minimizes glare and heat exposure. Courtesy of Willet Photography

“The entire building is truly meant to be one large collision space. The grand stair and all the internal ‘chance meeting’ areas are thoughtfully placed to promote collegiate interactions among students, faculty and visitors,” said Borick. “This building is meant to further Clemson’s mission and reinforce the department’s moto ‘Clemson Powers Business.’”

The building also features a state-of-the-art financial trading floor where students in the financial department can learn to trade stocks and securities. The room is fit out with Bloomberg machines, screens and a double row stock ticker which can be seen from both the exterior and interior of the building.

“This state-of-the-art building will become the launching pad for the next generation of Clemson-educated business leaders. Everything in the building is physically, mechanically and electronically cutting-edge. The spacious and efficient learning environment that has been created for us will transform the way we teach business education,” said Meg Bishop, Director of Operations for the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business.

collision spaces
One of the building’s numerous collision spaces allowing students the opportunity to collaborate. Courtesy of Willett Photography

The building also achieved a very high level of sustainability thanks to many cutting-edge features including electronic dynamic glass, harvested wood components and a sophisticated HVAC control system. DPR repurposed trees from the building’s site into wood sills, paneling, flooring, benches and tables in the facility. They also utilized Smart Glass to save up to 20 percent in energy costs and deployed extensive erosion controls measures to avoid polluting the water supply. The building achieved a 3 Green Globes rating in September of 2020 under the Green Building Initiatives rating system. Clemson has several LEED Silver and Gold buildings in its portfolio, but this is their first building to achieve 3 Green Globes. Clemson’s Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business also earned the 2020 ENR Southeast’s Best Project Award.