Location Washington, DC
Size 96,000 ft2 (78,000 new, 18,000 existing)
Program Dining area, bookstore, wellness center, locker rooms, lounges, offices, ballroom
Client University of the District of Columbia
Architect Cannon Design, Marshall Moya Design
Landscape Architect Lee and Associates
MEP Engineer Setty and Associates International
Structural Engineer Restl Designers
Civil Engineer Delon Hampton and Associates
General Contractor Parkinson/Forrester Joint Venture
Coming out of the Van Ness-UDC Metro station, students commuting to the University of the District of Columbia this past fall had to walk along a fenced-in pathway with the rumble of construction crews in the background. The construction company, Parkinson/Forrester Joint Venture was laying the groundwork for a new $40 million student center topped with a 14,000-square-foot green roof right across the street from a Giant supermarket and blocks from the International Chancery Center, home to 20 diplomatic offices.
The new building, designed by Cannon Design in partnership with Marshall Moya Design, is the centerpiece of a ten-year, campus-wide renovation aimed at establishing the university as a national model of energy sustainability while raising the school’s profile as a selective four-year university. Scheduled for completion in late 2014, the student center arrives on the heels of the new College of Agriculture, Urban Studies, and Environmental Sciences building and represents a physical and metaphoric bridge to the wealthy, tree-lined residential neighborhoods of northwest Washington, DC. With a clock tower, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a rain garden of grasses, oak, and native holly to mark its presence at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street, it also gives the university a recognizable gateway—something that, until recently, it lacked.
“It was possible to pass the university and not know it is there; this is a way to welcome people to our campus and further develop our ‘town and gown’ relationship, if you will,” says Erik Thompson, senior project manager of the university’s Capital Construction Division. “My very first meeting with then university president, Allen Sessoms, I was told, ‘This is a building by the students and for the students. They should be involved in every decision because they are helping to pay for it. We should give them things they want and need.’”
Certification LEED Platinum (expected)
Materials FSC-certified architectural woodwork, recycled-content tile and carpet, 75% of construction waste recycled
Energy Extensive green roof, 4,400-square-foot geothermal field
Water Automatic sensors on plumbing fixtures
Lighting Daylighting, lighting dimmers, sensors installed throughout
The university’s goal of building the first LEED Platinum student center on the East Coast, and only the third building in DC to achieve this standard, is intentionally lofty, Thompson says, and it has relied largely on the input of students and community members. Prior to finalizing the design, the design team gathered input from students, faculty, staff, and community members using one-on-one interviews, surveys, and focus groups. Many of the university’s 6,000 students, including a rapidly growing cohort of international students, were invited to evaluate early progress drawings and asked why they came to the university, what they would like to see in the new building, and what they have seen in other green designs. The DC City Council contributed $35 million for the project, and the remaining $5 million was generated through a student fee.
The new student center is a far cry from the brutalist concrete and tinted glass hardscape that characterized much of the former campus. Many of Cannon Design’s architectural features added to the sustainability of the building, including a recessed green roof garden planted with Liriope and Pennsylvania sedge in a lightweight soil-free media. Atria in the student center and adjoining plaza provide natural daylight, and a wedge-shaped rain garden serves as a small park and simultaneously filters storm water through an underground treatment system.