The science of learning

Tuesday 13 Mar 2012

Student accommodation addresses global issues of sustainability and conservation

The Charles David Keeling Apartments are located on the southwestern edge of the University of California San Diego campus overlooking the coastal cliffs of La Jolla. Named for the American scientist whose research first alerted the world to the possibility of the human impact on global warming, the apartments highlight the urgency of resource conservation. The design employs a suite of tactics to address Southern California's pressing environmental challenges of storm water management, water scarcity, and carbon emissions, providing a model of sustainable living and a pilot for future campus development.

The c-shaped complex reinterprets the original campus architecture of 1960s cast-in-place concrete structures, which share a lace-like quality resulting from the use of repetitive sun control elements and a colour palette tied to San Diego's coastal climate. The apartments are instrumental in the revitalisation of Revelle College; the school's founding college, by moving Revelle students closer to their academic buildings from remote and off-campus housing. A new landscaped courtyard and basketball courts unite the complex with nearby residence halls, and meeting rooms, a roof terrace and extensive outdoor walkways promote social interaction and outdoor living.

The three apartment buildings are located around a functioning landscape containing bioswales and retention basins for storm water management. The buildings are orientated for optimal environmental performance in the site's particular microclimate. The apartments are arranged along a single-loaded exterior corridor so that each space within the unit receives abundant daylight, views and natural ventilation to achieve comfort without air conditioning. Solar heat gain is controlled with deep overhangs shading the southern facades and vertical shading devices on the west, orientated at different angles, blocking strong afternoon sun. The layering of the systems creates visual depth in the facade that varies throughout the day as lighting conditions change.

All exterior and interior walls, floors, and ceilings are exposed concrete, constructed with intense focus on batch composition, formwork and craft. An innovative architectural use of industrial fiberglass grating for sunshades and railing systems was specified for its durability in marine environments. The long-term benefit of these material selections will be less maintenance and longer replacement intervals, resulting in reduced costs and associated energy.

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