community green education center
merit citation awards control of thermal mass | linkage between indoor/outdoor learning
fourth year studio (spring 2010)
project location Long Beach, California
partner Melissa Toops
The achievement of a net zero energy building encompasses strategic planning and sustainable implementation involving material choices, site orientation, daylight and ventilation strategies, and more. As an educational facility, the use of these strategies is integrated into both environmental building features and educational learning components. For the Community Green Education Center, the employment of building organization, material selections, and renewable resource strategies enabled us to pursue a net zero energy strategy.
The organization of the program was developed into cores to allow for a multi-building design. This multiple building strategy allows for better ventilation possibilities, increased daylight penetration, and the creation of multiple outdoor spaces suited for extended outdoor learning and community recreation. It also opens the possibility for future expansion of the Center, expanding the life cycle of the building.
The excavation of our site six feet below grade for a lower courtyard brings about the use of the excavated site material. The introduction of a thick mass wall creates a strong structural and shear wall for the building while allowing for the implementation of innovative poured earth technology over traditional concrete construction. The poured earth aids in utilizing all of the site excavated earth as a building material, decreasing the overall embodied energy of the project, creating a thermal mass, directing user views inward to the site, and acting as a visual example of a low-tech and high-tech sustainable design approach. Other material selections focused on the use of recycled and low embodied energy materials. Structurally, glulam beams and columns are implemented as a lower embodied energy material that can utilize ample amounts of recycled and sustainably certified materials. Using glulam members reduces embodied energy by as much as seven times over using structural steel, and with a large quantity of recycling facilities within a 30-mile radius of the site, the opportunity for recycled and reused materials would be utilized fully. The adjustable light shelf, for example, will employ recycled polished aluminum as the material using as much as 13 times less energy than that of new aluminum.
Renewable resource strategies involve employing the sun and wind in capturing their lighting possibilities, ventilation opportunities, and power generation capabilities. Lighting is maximized through the employment of a multi-building design as well as light shelf design and translucent circulation pathways. The light shelf was studied closely to determine the optimum design, and catwalk-like circulation pathways allow for further diffused light penetration. The adoption of operable windows both low and high on each wall allow for a customizable ventilation strategy by season. The occupant can adjust the openings depending on the prevailing winds on the site to maximize their ventilation comfort. Furthermore, with the positive wind and solar power capabilities on site, the Center employs enough renewable power sources to produce almost four times the energy needed, enabling the complex to feed power back into the grid and allow for flexibility in the installation of new innovative technologies without compromising the building’s net zero status.
Sustainability and net zero energy design has to reach beyond building design. The Community Green Education Center is designed to bring the community into the site for recreation and sustainable education through its outward expression of sustainable strategies. Community garden space allows for the Long Beach community to get involved in gardening and landscape knowledge, while sustainable landscape installations produced by the students and professionals act as an example for people to experience. Recycling bins, waste management, and visible composting serve to show the public environmentally responsible strategies they can employ in their own daily practice. A connection to public transportation and an ample amount of bike racks serve to connect the community to more sustainable forms of transportation. These strategies and more are openly visible on every angle of the site to guide the community and the Center toward sustainable practice.
Overall, net zero energy is difficult to attain. However, the Center strives for net zero energy through the several positive ways previously outlined. Reaching further toward sustainability and net zero energy is the Center’s outward branching influence. Feeding power back into the grid helps to offset any non-passive components of the project while reducing the power needed by the surrounding community. There is also an overall focus on teaching a culture of sustainability to the community at large, becoming a location for community learning through its programs and outward example of environmental strategies. The integration of program, material, and resource strategies in combination with its community education and recreation focus derive the net zero energy principles behind the Community Green Education Center.
Status: Competition Entry
Location: Long Beach, California