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Building as Teaching Tool for Sustainability

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on October 18th, 2010

Image: Ross Barney Architects

From an article on World Architects about the James | Swenson Civil Engineering Building by John Hill:

As sustainability continues to take hold in the architectural profession, the most desirable projects enable designers to express green features, making them educational devices to the clients and users. Chicago firm Ross Barney Architects has done such a thing to great effect at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. The architects answered some questions about their design of the James | Swenson Civil Engineering Building.



Designed to display the building systems as a pedagogical tool, the building showcases the structural, and mechanical systems as well as stormwater management techniques. The building acts as a working classroom for the students using the space. Structurally, the building utilizes precast concrete walls, precast hollowcore floor slabs, and steel. The puzzle piece precast walls of the structural lab educate that precast can be formed into any shape, while still forming together in a unique pattern offering slot windows throughout the finished concrete box. The south wall of the space retains the exterior tilt-up braces and kickers that are used as temporary supports during the construction process to feature the process of this construction.



The oversized scuppers serve a functional role in preventing rainwater from overflowing the storm sewer system and causing environmental damage to the local stream beds. Water is directed from the rooftop, down the scuppers, and into a trio of above ground Corten cylinders, which distribute the water into an underground French drain. This reused greywater fills the flume in the Hydraulics Laboratory for student experiments, or gradually filters back into the hydrological system of the site. In addition to the French drain, a number of other stormwater retention strategies were employed, including; an intensive green roof over 30% of the total roof area, rain gardens with non-irrigated native plantings, and permeable pavers. Through the combination of greywater reuse and the implementation of low-flow restroom fixtures, a 56% reduction in water usage was achieved.

Read the full article by John Hill.

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