The Westmont Science Education Facility not only houses classrooms, laboratories and support facilities for teaching science at the high school level, but also participates in teaching science. The building shows how it is built and what makes it go. It offers opportunities to connect what is learned inside with what is outside. During programming and design, these COST PER SQ FT$363.71FEATURED IN2004 Architectural Portfolio were known as “teachable moments.”
The building is oriented on a true north-south axis to provide light from the north and shade from the south to reduce loads on the mechanical system. However, one classroom is skewed to align with the existing campus and generate discussions of building orientation.
Steel post and beam construction is exposed to generate discussions of statics. Exposed gray concrete supports the steel columns and ties together the vertical structural elements that house radiant heating.
Photocells sense ambient light levels and automatically dim or raise indirect lighting fixtures. Occupancy sensors switch lights off when no motion is detected and return to the last position when motion is sensed again. Interior colors were selected to reflect and distribute natural light.
Four-thousand square feet of solar panels on the roof generate up to 20 kW and can power the science building. On low-use days, excess power feeds back to the grid. Exposed instrumentation shows power generation including real-time fluctuations (clouds passing).
Radiant heating and cooling are achieved through water tubing installed separately over the structural slab. The heating/cooling slab is colored red to identify the temperature component. Manifolds and instrumentation are contained in a visible monitoring cabinet.
The building interweaves several disciplines in order to demonstrate genuinely sustainable design. True sustainability focuses on building construction and the building’s ability to stimulate ideas and lessons: users should take something with them and make informed choices in their lives outside the building.