Wall-free education facility completed by Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects
The LEED Platinum Student Commons creates a gathering place for an independent high school on seventeen acres of hilly terrain in the residential community of Ross, California, north of San Francisco. The new 7,550 sq ft Student Commons building is located in a narrow glen in the centre of the campus, along the pedestrian path between the upper and lower campuses. The central gable and large window wall front onto an inviting terrace and lawn while the flanking support wings, sheltered under green roofs, connect to the adjacent hillsides with board form concrete walls.
Sited to take advantage of the sunny southern exposure, the new building features large overhead doors that open onto a generous plaza for dining, meeting and outdoor learning. By providing spaces for gathering and socialising throughout the day, the Student Commons serves as the heart of campus activity. The building is LEED Platinum certified and features many sustainable strategies, including a living roof, radiant heating, natural ventilation, photovoltaic panels, and pervious paving.
This independent, college-preparatory day school has a mission is to promote ‘responsible leadership in the global community’. As educators who believe in personal and intellectual integrity, they use the addition of the Student Commons to their campus as a method to educate their students about sustainability. The building is a teaching tool. In return, the building harvests the natural resources available on its site, and suggests local climate and environment can co-exist, influence, and enhance the built environment.
The mild Mediterranean climate of Ross, CA, allows users to connect to the outdoors. Its large window walls open to allow for natural ventilation and passive cooling. Native landscaping and living roofs enhance its relationship to nature and help with reducing water irrigation, stormwater runoff, and the urban heat island effect. Photovoltaic panels capture energy from the roof that remains sunny for most days of the year. RAP, a recycled concrete aggregate, reinforces the soil for concrete grade beams. The project teaches that locally specific design benefits quality of space and energy performance, and contributes towards a global goal of sustainability.
In addition to the experience of an environmentally friendly building, the school takes its educational value further by adding a LUCID interactive screen for real time, quantitative data on water, gas, electric, and PV use. The science department and a group of teachers are offering an Environmental Studies class to study the results.