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Modern Learning Center Uses Ancient HVAC Scheme

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Best Higher Education/Research Project: Continuing Education Mesa College Campus, San Diego

Photo By Mike Torrey Photography
The two-story learning center features passive cooling and natural lighting which will reduce energy use by 43%.
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This $22.5-million, LEED-Silver project consolidates programs such as English as a second language and disability support into a bright and airy two-story learning center.

Project engineers expect sustainable features such as passive cooling and natural lighting to reduce the building's energy use by 43% compared with state requirements.

An integrated natural ventilation system is based on an ancient Persian technique, creating a slight negative pressure to ventilate air from each classroom. Outside air enters through motor-controlled windows and circulates through the occupied spaces. An elegant wind scoop at the main corridor's ceiling collects and funnels air out of the corridor.

To align the exterior and interior finishes on an 8-ft by 8-ft grid, the project team used BIM and created a full-size exterior mock-up, which revealed that the finishes would not align with the computer model due to normal construction tolerances. The project team then made 33 design or sequencing changes to accelerate the schedule and reduce costs before installation even began. "A tremendous amount of effort was invested in mock-ups," one judge noted. "They dug deep into what worked and what didn't."

The collaborative team approach to resolve potential issues early on was a key to the success, says Kevin Smart, PCL project manager.

Key Players

Contractor PCL Construction Services Inc., San Diego

Owner San Diego Community College District, San Diego

Lead Design SGPA Architecture and Planning, San Diego

Structural Engineer KNA Consulting Engineers, Irvine

Civil Engineer Latitude 33, San Diego

MEP Engineer MA Engineers, San Diego; Johnson Consulting Engineers, Poway

Landscape Architect MW Peltz + Associates, Solana Beach

Subcontractors Able Heating & Air Conditioning, Chula Vista; Able Electric, Placerville; Tower Glass, Santee; Rocky Coast Framers, Escondido; RND Contractors, Fontana

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