Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Central Michigan University’s College of Education and Human Services in Mount Pleasant, Michigan by SHW Group Architects
April 27th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Central Michigan University’s College of Education and Human Services program grew from relatively modest beginnings to a nationally recognized doctoral and research-intensive institution.
The College outgrew antiquated facilities and wanted a new building to enhance its ability to meet the learning needs of its students, the instructional needs of its faculty, and the functional needs of its supporting staff.
SHW Group, one of the nation’s largest educational architecture and engineering firms, was chosen to handle full architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical engineering services.
The design process called for up-to-date instructional spaces, classrooms, labs, a child development center, as well as staff, faculty, and departmental offices. SHW Group held full-day visioning sessions, followed by a series of leadership and user group meetings to assure the facility met the needs of all user groups. Completed in July 2009, the resulting facility harmonizes with the existing campus while adding a more contemporary articulation for this prestigious program.
The EHS building began as a $50 million project. After the project budget was established, the owner intended to pursue LEED Gold, while making no compromise on the program. The design team approached this challenge by evaluating the building envelope, orientation, opportunities for well-placed shading devices and equipment efficiencies to optimize the MEP system sizing.
The result reduced the MEP systems cost by $700,000 while reducing the annual operating cost by at least 28%. The initial cost savings was used to maintain the building program goals and achieve LEED Gold while remaining within the initial project budget. More than a year after initial occupancy, the MEP systems are maintaining a comfortable environment and exceeding the initial operating cost savings expectations.
SHW Group understood the College’s goals – teaching teachers to teach. To that end, the building functions as a learning tool to educate children and college students, providing one collaborative environment for the College of Education. It is technology-rich and conducive to interpersonal activity, social learning, professional role-modeling and team building.
Exterior walls consist of terra cotta, pressure-equalized rain-screen cladding, glass curtain-walls, and metal panels. A monumental slate wall accents the east and west entries and is highlighted on the north wing, echoing the tradition of chalk boards in education. The primary structural system is a steel frame.
All low roofs and the southern high roof are designed with sedum green roofs. Roof construction includes an Energy Star® compliant roof membrane that is installed over rigid insulation, creating a ‘cool’ roof structure.
Major public spaces feature porcelain tile “scraps”, set in a finger-jointed pattern. This material contrasts with the warmth of bamboo panels on ceiling and wall surfaces. Floor finishes include carpet tile, sheet linoleum and porcelain tile depending on usage. Low-VOC paints and stains are used throughout. The primary lighting in the classrooms and work areas is indirect/direct fluorescent fixtures. The contrasting recycled and sustainable materials provides a substantial expression of the collaborative spatial organization within.
The 200-seat auditorium has dual projectors and capabilities to create video podcasts of lectures. Other technologies throughout the building include: room wizards outside all classrooms, copy cams in study lounges and classrooms, dual-projection in all large classrooms, distance learning and an interchangeable classroom, which allows faculty to transform the room based on the needs of the course they’re teaching.
Child Development Labs
SHW Group explored all senses in the crafting of the building bringing texture, light, smell, and color to the forefront of design. The Childhood Development Center design treats children with a sophisticated palette of natural materials, creating a space that enables children to explore, learn and to express their potential, abilities and curiosity. Positioned on the southern side of the building for rich daylight, the development program provides an immersive learning environment.
A dedicated drop off area for the Child Development Center program was accommodated, and an enclosed, secured outdoor learning center was strategically located for the children to take advantage of the sun. This integral relationship of the architecture and pedagogy creates a cohesive way for children to connect with the world through their senses.
Insulated low-E coated and other high performance glass is used in all punched windows and curtain-walls. Clerestory windows are used above the primary circulation to provide natural day lighting. Punched windows allow for proper glazing percentage. Each window hood houses a reflective shelf to reflect and diffuse sunlight. Additionally, 12-foot glass window walls allow for the filtration of sunlight through the classrooms and into the primary circulation spine. Also, the central spine is rendered with light wells, drawing the ambient northern light deep into the core of the building. This capitalizes on a strong east/west orientation providing the most flexibility with the solar conditions of the site.
SHW Group is one of the nation’s leading architecture, engineering and planning firms dedicated to the design of learning environments. Founded in 1945, SHW Group’s experience includes more than 4000 projects nationally and internationally. The firm has offices in Austin, Baltimore, Charlottesville, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, San Antonio and Washington DC. SHW Group is recognized for collaborating with educators, researchers and facility owners to consistently design innovative facilities that inspire students and support the missions of the clients SHW Group serves.
Contact SHW Group Architects