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Bagley Classroom Building in Duluth, Minnesota by Salmela Architect
December 16th, 2011 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Salmela Architect
This small university classroom building is located above a pond on a 55 acre nature reserve. The site has hiking trails through old growth hard woods frequented by the university students as well as the public. We were charged with designing a facility to serve eight different departments for the nature portions of their teaching and study.
The University desired that this building have minimum environmental impact and be an overall energy producer rather than consumer in spite of the fact it is in the cold climate of Northern Minnesota. Keeping these goals in mind the building has been designed for PassivHaus and LEED Platinum certification. The PassivHaus concept, developed in Germany, allows extraordinary reductions in energy use of up to 90% and with the help of small renewable energy systems allows buildings to become self-sufficient in energy needs and potentially carbon neutral by providing enough energy back to the grid.
To meet these ambitious goals and keeping with PassivHaus principles, Bagley Classroom Building was designed as a super-insulated, virtually air tight building that is heated primarily by direct passive solar gain from the South and internal heat gains from equipment and occupants. The building was placed facing directly south not only to maximize solar gain in the winter but also to maximize power production from photovoltaic panels which supply energy back to the grid and to connect the classroom space to its idyllic hilltop setting above Bagley pond. The space is cooled by passive shading devices and sensor activated natural ventilation system that takes advantage of the stack effect created by the lower east and west facing operable windows and high louvers. In addition, a heat recovery ventilator provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply during winter and summer. The super insulated envelope with 12 inches of insulation surrounding the foundation’s footings and floor slab and 16-inch thick SIP wall and roof panels successfully minimizes thermal transfer. A draught tolerant green roof adds to the super-insulating effect.
To help achieve LEED Platinum rating, recycled timber, recycled paper-resin siding, trim and countertops, partially recycled zinc siding and recycled granite pavers were used. The new wood materials have no applied finishes or VOC coatings. Composting toilets combined with the storm water retainage at the green roof makes this building close to a zero-water waste producer.
Construction of the building was recently completed in June, 2010 and is 2 months into balancing all systems and collecting energy performance data. The project has acheived LEED Platinum Certification and the process of obtaining Passive Haus is ongoing.
Located at the edge of campus on a hilltop setting, the beauty of this project emerges in its approach and siting. Great care was taken to achieve ADA and fire emergency access and turning usual problems into classical processional access. Only one tree, which was diseased, was removed and a fire place was put in its place to continue a history of student bonfires on this specific location above the pond. Already this outdoor court is recognized by professors as an unexpected secondary “classroom” creating opportunities for two classes to be in session at Bagley at the same time.
The assembly of physical elements of the classroom building, the outdoor fireplace, wood storage and recycled cedar benches has created a gathering area which has already become a popular student study area as well as an iconic meeting place for citizens who use the running and hiking trails that originate at the site.
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