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Morrison Family Education and Outreach Pavilion

Buccellato Design, LLC


St. Patrick's County Park

50651 Laurel Rd



Environmental Change Initiative Notre Dame


  • Civil Engineer: Smithgroup JJR
  • Structural Engineer: Keller Engineering, Inc.
  • General Contractor: Ziolkowski Construction
  • Other: Trillium Dell Timberworks
  • Other: Midland Engineering
  • Other: Inovateus Solar

Project Status


Year Completed



650 sq. feet
View all (5) images

Project Description


In 2009, the Environmental Change Initiative at Notre Dame was formed to address the interrelated problems of invasive species, land use, and climate change, with research efforts focused on their synergistic impacts on water resources. To conduct this critical research, the University broke ground on a globally-unique research facility in 2012, the Notre Dame Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility (ND LEEF), located 5 miles north of campus in St. Patrick's County Park (South Bend, Indiana). 

The Morrison Family Education & Outreach Pavilion sits at the heart of the 29-acre research facility and is the first permanent structer to be constructed on ND-LEEF (completed October 2014). As the inaugural building and centerpiece of ND LEEF, the Pavilion was designed to serve as a gateway for the public, University visitors, and students to the ground-breaking research being conducted at the facility, and to act as a critical bridge between the classroom and the field for students of all ages in the surrounding community. The pavilion, the Phase I research watersheds, and attendant site improvements and necessary infrastructure are all part of a guiding master-plan. 

The newly constructed Morrison Family Education & Outreach Pavilion is an outdoor classroom and outreach destination and was conceived with the important goal of providing scientists and educators with a platform to directly connect their cutting-edge research and scholarship to the broader community. Meanwhile, the structure serves as a full-scale example of how sustainable design and construction practices can minimize society's impact on the environment. By sourcing minimally processed, local building materials and utilizing durable timber framing construction techniques, the Morrison Education & Outreach Pavilion is a structure that embodies the mantra of the Environmental Change Initiative, "Science Serving Society," in both function and form. 

The roughly 650 square foot open-frame, mortise and tenon timber structure was constructed out of native white and Bur oak hand-selected for the project from a stand of native hardwoods in western Illinois. After the timbers were felled, they were moved 20 miles to the timber frame shop for milling and fabrications. The Pavilion's broad, protective eaves were achieved by placing tapered secondary rafters atop closely spaced purlins, providing necessary shade for researchers, students, and visitors during peak research season. The primary rafters engage both lintel and post with fully concealed, traditional mortise and tenon joinery. The timbers' natural buttswell is revealed in the shape of the posts - traditionally called Gunstock - which also lends greater structural support for the trusses and eliminates need for additional lateral bracing.

Time-honored technology is merged with new in this structure, with the incorporation of a cutting-edge touch screen digital display powered by rooftop thin cell photovoltaics. These technologies will enable ND LEEF researchers to share their work - and the mission of the facility - more broadly, while minimizing on-site energy consumption. Flanking display niches set into the 10" think, cross-laminated white oak timber wall will feature fixed exhibits describing on-going research, including an in-depth narrative about the design and construction of the Pavilion. As part of the frame raising for the Pavilion (October 2014), the ND ECI held a live-build outreach event attended by eighty 4th graders from the Madison Primary Academy in South Bend and thirty graduate and undergraduate students from the University of Notre Dame. 
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