Sun, surf and sustainable design

Sian
26 Feb 2010

An inhabited landscape for Malibu students

With sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu High School sits on a hillside ¼ mile from Zuma Beach and the Pacific Coast Highway. The school’s new 38,000 sq ft classroom, library, and administration building will serve as an iconic gateway to the campus.While visually dramatic, the existing school’s location in an increasingly environmentally sensitive area was of critical concern to the district and the design team. The Malibu community’s heightened awareness of the fragility of their coastal habitat was a guiding factor in creating a new facility that would be both a sustainable laboratory and a teaching tool for students and the neighborhood. Reinforcing this sustainable philosophy, the design connects students and faculty with their environment at every turn.

Conceived as a type of inhabited landscape, the new building echoes and mirrors the contours of the native hillside. Planted green roofs provide outdoor learning spaces while improving building performance and managing storm runoff. Strategically placed skylights and floor-to-ceiling glazing provide an abundance of natural daylight and minimise energy consumption. Solar fins made from recycled air-entrained aluminum panels shield the building from the sun along the building’s southwest side, where heat gain and glare are main concerns. These coral-like foam panels preserve views and invite daylight into classrooms while forming one of the distinct characteristics of the project’s design. In addition, the primary mechanical system relies on radiant heating and natural ventilation for cooling. This passive system, along with wind turbines, cool roofs, cisterns and bio-filtration systems, are visible examples of functional and efficient sustainable design.

The collaboration between the architect, district, students and parents, and local government - all committed to a state-of-the–art, environmentally sensitive teaching facility - resulted in a building that becomes part of a progressive educational process itself.

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