University Student Center Goes Green

Straw bale walls, photovoltaic cells, recycled textiles, and furniture featuring locally harvested wood are some features that will be a part of the new Kennedy Commons building on Santa Clara University’s Mission campus.

San Francisco architectural firm of Kaplan Mclaughlin Diaz (KMD) was commissioned to design the new building, which will be the ultimate green building on campus and an example of SCU’s commitment to stewardship of the environment and promoting awareness of sustainability. The 7,500-square foot building will be a flexible multipurpose space that will include meeting rooms, a kitchen, classrooms, and office and lecture space for faculty and students. Situated in the current concrete Kennedy Mall area on campus, the facility will also have open area for outdoor programming and social events to support the adjacent student residence halls. “The Commons Building will represent one of the first entirely ‘green’ academic buildings in the U.S. It will represent a landmark design in terms of academic institutions becoming more up to date with sustainable architecture,” said Liz Chaney, KMD’s academic group director. Sean Huang, KMD’s design principal said the design of the Commons Building works in harmony with the mission style of architecture that is central to SCU’s thematic campus design. Part of the challenge was to rediscover and revive the inherent vision of the mission style of architecture, as it was first used for warmer climates, and integrating sustainable elements from the past with new technologies to create iconographic design that provides a sense of excitement, flexibility, transparency and modernity. The building uses a multitude of green materials to create a highly functional and flexible environment that uses the latest energy efficient technology such as straw bale walls, raised flooring, and natural ventilation. Huang also added that the building will accommodate smart classrooms with the latest technology, including movable walls to create flexibility and a variety of experiences. “Santa Clara University is amending our design guidelines to incorporate sustainable architecture in future campus renovations and freestanding buildings. We are proud to be working with KMD and we are committed to becoming one of the first completely green academic institutions in the U.S.,” Joe Sugg, vice president of University Operations, said. He added that the next few meetings between the University, Santa Clara City officials and the SCU design team will dictate the direction of the overall design and performance of the building. “Throughout the planning and design phases, a constant dialogue between the design, city and University teams will promote the cultivation of ideas for the student commons,” Sugg said. The involvement of the academic community in the new building is viewed as crucial for the project to be a success. Marvier said faculty and students may even have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and assist with the construction.
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