Notre Dame Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility (ND-LEEF)

ND-LEEF Masterplan

The ND LEEF Masterplan is part of a broader research and research-meets-design agenda to establish a vanguard interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach campus that will integrate in a single location the interrelated topics of land use, climate change, and building technology and energy research.

The Notre Dame Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility (ND-LEEF) is a globally-unique research facility supporting critical climate and land use change research. I am the lead designer for the 29-acre facility, which includes core research infrastructure in the form of terrestrial research plots and a series of man-made linked ecosystems consisting of ponds, streams, and wetlands. The research facility is located in the heart of one of our community’s beloved parks, St. Patrick’s County Park, making ND-LEEF also one of the first-of-its kind institutional-municipal partnerships. As design lead for the facility, one of my early responsibilities was to help the University and the Environmental Change Initiative identify a suitable site for the facility and assist in defining the terms of the long-term land use agreement between parties. This meant describing our broadest possible vision for the research facility in the form of a guiding masterplan for ND-LEEF.

ND-LEEF Masterplan rendering by Aimee P. C. Buccellato

Development of ND-LEEF will be funded in phases, and as such, the masterplan that I have designed for ND-LEEF will continue to be used an instrument for guiding all current and future construction at the facility. The masterplan honors our commitment to St. Patrick’s County Park and frames our paramount goal at ND-LEEF: to achieve the maximum possible research impact on the environment and human health while minimizing the physical impact of the of the research facility.

The first phase of construction at ND-LEEF was completed in 2012 with the initial research investment. This included the construction of a pair of research ecosystems (linked streams, pond, and wetland), surface and subsurface infrastructure, a research laydown area, and a headwaters reservoir to support up to six of the research ecosystems (see legend). The location and configuration of the components that were included in Phase I construction were carefully considered within the broader phased Masterplan for ND-LEEF, and I worked in close coordination with the civil and environmental engineering firm SmithGroupJJR to guide the engineering and execution of the first phase of the ND-LEEF Masterplan.

In order to fully support this first-of-its-kind research habitat and attract the world’s best researchers to ND-LEEF, the full masterplan includes a campus of interactive, “living lab buildings” — or full-scale research test-beds — designed specifically to support building-scale research on building and energy related topics (see RESEARCH / ND-LEEF). The buildings constructed at ND-LEEF will see research conducted both in them and on them, representing an unprecedented opportunity to advance the scope and impact of ND’s environmental change research. See a fly-through animation of the masterplan.

The first building to be constructed at ND-LEEF is the award-winning Morrison Family Education and Outreach Pavilion.


  • WNIT, “Behind the Scenes: Building a Research Facility (ND-LEEF).” Outdoor Elements. January 20, 2013 (TV) and online.
  • Coyne, T. “Notre Dame Breaks Ground on Waterways Research Center.” Associated Press. June 18, 2012.
  • Zellers, J. “Notre Dame Breaks Ground on Environment Research Center.” ABC 57 (TV). June18, 2012.
  • WNDU, “Notre Dame Breaking Ground on Environmental Center.” WNDU (TV) June 18, 2012.
  • Blasko, E. “ND to grow $1 million LEEF at Park.” South Bend Tribune. February 15, 2012.
  • 2012 Annual Report & 2015 Annual Impact Report, University of Notre Dame

The Morrison Family Education & Outreach Pavilion

The Morrison Family Education & Outreach Pavilion sits at the heart of the 29-acre ND-LEEF research facility and is the first permanent structure to be constructed at the globally-unique research facility (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 comprehensive guiding master-plan.

"The craft and subtlety of this small pavilion lends it a more commanding presence than its scale would suggest. From the 'gunstock' profile of the columns to the joinery of the timber members, the jury was impressed with every detail and choice made in the design of this structure. The decision to orient the building along the summer solstice, and to situate it with its back to the approach, a simple swath of mown meadow, was poetic."

- AIA Award Jury Comments

The Morrison Pavilion has earned several awards for Design and Outreach, including a Citation Award from the AIA Indiana in 2015.

View Construction Documents pdf

Design Awards

  • Citation Award for New Construction

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) – Indiana
  • Excellence in Design Award

    International Network of Traditional Building and Urbanism (INTBAU)
    Commendation for Community Engagement
    Awarded at the 2015 INTBAU World Congress, London, England
  • Acanthus Award for Excellence in Architecture

    Institute of Classical Architecture and Art (ICAA) – Midwest Chapter

Live Build Education & Outreach Event

@ A Glance
Project Address
  • St. Patrick’s County Park
    South Bend, Indiana
  • Environmental Change Initiative - ND


Project Type

Comprehensive Masterplan & Phased Development

  • Phase I Facility – completed 2013
  • Morrison Family Education and Outreach Pavilion – completed 2014
  • Phase II - in fundraising
Project Team

Aimee P. C. Buccellato
Lead Project Designer (and co-investigator, ND-LEEF)
See ND-LEEF in Research section

General Contractor
Ziolkowski, Inc.

Engineer-of-record (Phase I research infrastructure)

related / notable

View Fly-through animation of Masterplan

See undergraduate Studio Design proposals for ND-LEEF

Morrison Pavilion

Project Type
  • New Construction
  • Environmental Change Initiative - ND
Project Team

Aimee P. C. Buccellato

General Contractor
Ziolkowski, Inc.

Structural Engineer
Keller Engineering

Allied Craftspeople

Timber Frame & CLT- Fabrication
Trillium Dell Timberworks

Special Technologies

Photovoltaic Solar
Inovateus Solar, Inc.

Custom Touchscreen & Display Technologies
Crysties, Inc. & Corning, Inc.


Fall 2014

related / notable

Digital Learning Modules on Sustainable Architecture video
Produced with The Office of Digital Learning – Notre Dame

  • “The Relationship between the Built and Natural Environment”
  • “What Makes a Building Sustainable?”
  • “A Model for Sustainability”
  • “Measuring the Impact of Buildings on the Built Environment”

Live-Build Education & Outreach Event
October 17-18, 2014