Whittier College Science & Learning Center Wins at AIA Long Beach/South Bay

Steinberg Hart’s Science & Learning Center at Whittier College has won an AIA Long Beach/South Bay Design Award, COTE Award of Merit.

Every two years since 1968, the AIA Long Beach/South Bay Chapter has celebrated outstanding architecture through its Biennial Design Awards Program. The Design Awards Program recognizes achievements for a broad range of architectural works that elevate the general quality of architectural practice, establish a standard of excellence against which all architects can measure performance, and inform the public of the breath and value of architectural practice. To emphasize the important role that the built environment can play in mitigating the effects of climate change, our chapter’s Committee on the Environment (COTE) will recognize projects that successfully integrate design excellence with environmental performance.

Principal and Design Director Michael Miller and Senior Associate Juan Garcia attended the awards ceremony in El Segundo, California, and accepted the award.

After completing a masterplan of the Whittier College Campus, Steinberg Hart completed a complete renovation of the aging Science & Learning Center, bringing it into the 21st Century. Seismic, accessibility, utility and equipment upgrades were critical in the transformation. However, the primary goal was to accommodate modern, state-of-the-art modes of teaching and learning, particularly those rooted in technology, collaboration, and interdisciplinary study. As a facility that every student at Whittier will take classes in, this transformation was critical to overall student success, recruitment, and the identity of the college.

By folding sustainability strategies directly into the design conversation, we created a building that integrates environmental efficiencies into a dynamic and user-responsive space. The biggest effect of the renovation of the existing Science and Learning Classroom Building (SLC) was the reduced impact of the Carbon Emissions traditionally associated with new, ground-up, construction.  We view creative adaptation, renovation and reuse as key to a greener, more sustainable, low-carbon future.

During the renovation, the opaque pre-cast panels on the north facade were replaced with highly transparent glazing. The glazing dramatically opened the building up to the campus allowing natural light to flood the interior. With the sun now the primary light source for the building, sustainable strategies offset the ensuing solar heat gains. Opening one facade to light while mitigating the heat gains on the other facades, created a dramatic transformation without using additional energy.

The interior renovation dramatically improved the efficiencies of individual systems to meet or exceed Title 24 code requirements and achieve the ambitious targets set by the Edison “Savings by Design” program.  During the construction phase, careful demolition allowed for the recycling and re-use of materials, a practice which highlights our fully integrated approach to sustainability.

In addition to the strategies for minimizing heat gains on the east, west, and south facades, we also added a green roof to the building to provide an additional thermal barrier. The green roof is drought tolerant and mimics the system we designed across the full exterior of the SLC. After renovation, the landscape has shown reduced water consumption and requires fewer operational resources to maintain.

Our design of the SLC renovation also supported sustainable strategies during the construction phase. Cost savings built into the design allowed for tactical demolition. This careful demolition meant building materials could be recycled. These recycled materials were used as content in the renovated building and are emblematic of our fully integrated approach to sustainability.

The AIA Long Beach/South Bay COTE Award recognizes the project team’s successful commitment to a holistic approach to sustainability. For more information on the awards program and to see the full list of winners, visit the AIA Long Beach/South Bay website.