The challenge was to transform a rigidly compartmentalized and environmentally inefficient building into a dynamic, sustainable new university center. Alternative sites for expansion were studied and it was determined that a complete overhaul of the original building with a 36,000 SF addition would support the University’s program. Only the existing concrete frame was retained, saving roughly $8 million in construction cost for a 150,000 SF program.
The new program includes public lounge/study spaces, complete dining and catering services, an expanded bookstore, commercial services, multi-room conference facilities, a 300-seat auditorium, student program offices and administration offices.
The Lavin-Bernick Center is centrally located along McAlister Drive, the major pedestrian and vehicular axis through Tulane’s campus. It connects and overlaps two important green spaces, the Central Quad and a small, popular park between the University Center and adjacent sports arena.
An active green movement at Tulane strongly advocated sustainable design as fundamental to the renovation and expansion of the existing building. Many of the sustainable design strategies (canopies, shutters, balconies, and fans) were adapted from traditional New Orleans architecture.
The building facades were conceived as a porous envelope to encourage movement of people, light, and air while tempering the effects of the New Orleans climate with innovative strategies for shading, passive cooling and dehumidification. This membrane adjusts to control climatic extremes, yet provides permeability when interior and exterior conditions are in equilibrium.
A building management system monitors indoor and outdoor climatic conditions and optimizes a mixed-mode system of air-conditioning, mechanical and natural ventilation, daylighting and artificial lighting. These combined environmental strategies are predicted to reduce annual energy use for the building by 46%.
Despite its high ambitions, the project had a modest budget and was successfully completed for $189/SF, 14 months after Hurricane Katrina. Since its completion, Tulane sees the project as a new model for sustainable design in New Orleans.
Expanding the Comfort Zone
Although the New Orleans climate is hot and humid, there are prolonged periods during the spring and fall months in which daily conditions fall within the human body’s comfort zone. The introduction of shade, radiant cooled surfaces, and air movement significantly extends the number of days the building can remain open to the exterior.
Programmatically, the building was organized to facilitate movement through the building to exterior gathering spaces. As a result, the interior is zoned with varying levels of conditioned spaces. Thermal refuge zones are maintained as core spaces with a consistent design temperature of 75 degrees and 50% relative humidity.
In addition to the windows, social spaces along the perimeter are accompanied by a variety of fans that provide local conditioning. Clerestory skylights located on the rooftop introduce daylight to the center of the building while providing solar-driven ventilation at appropriate times.
Pendulum and large rotary fans are also used to move air and enhance comfort. Above the commons space, large pendulum fans swing slowly back and forth to drive air downward across the chilled-water surfaces of the water wall. In the dining area, multiple pendulum fans move to distribute chilled, dry air from above.
The design of the exterior shading responds to the specific orientation on the building. Green walls, louvered exterior shading systems, fritted glass, and canopies shade the building, reducing heat gain in the building. However, the specific shading responses allow an appropriate amount of indirect daylight to the interior reducing the requirement for artificial lighting.
The porous ceiling system operates as a cooling element in which cool, dry air is blown through it, forming a radiantly cool surface. A similar microclimate is created at the water walls where chilled water dehumidifies and provides a cool surface for air movement from the fans.
Project Team and Contact Information
In Association With James Carpenter Design Associates and Transsolar
Vincent James, Jennifer Yoos, Nathan Knutson (Managing Principal), Paul Yaggie (Project Architect), Carl Gauley, Lev Bereznycky, Karen Lu, Steven Philippi, Andrew Dull, Taavo Somer, Bob Loken, James Moore, Dzenita Hadziomerovic, Donovan Nelson, Mark Searls, Malini Srivastava, Dan Clark, Casey Renner, Aaron Roseth, Eric Whittington, Matthew Hutchinson
Daylighting & Glazing Consultant: James Carpenter Design Associates, New York
JCDA Team: James Carpenter, Richard Kress, Rayme Kuniyuki, Dietmar Geiselmann, Joe Welker, Ulrike Franzel, Henrike Bosbach, Marek Walczak
Climate Engineering: Matthias Schuler; Transsolar, Stuttgart
Consulting Architect: Wayne Troyer Architect, Louisiana
Structural and Civil engineering: Kulkarni Consultants, Louisiana
Consulting Engineer (Pre-design Phase): Arup, New York
Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing: Moses Engineers, Louisiana
Construction Administration: Chris Goad AIA (WTA), Lev Bereznycky (VJAA)
Landscape architect: Coen + Partners
Photographer: Paul Crosby
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