Why This New San Jacinto College Building Is Getting A Lot Of Attention

Slated to welcome its first students when classes begin Aug. 22, a building at San Jacinto College’s Central Campus in Pasadena stands out from all others on campus — and in the area.

The Anderson-Ball Classroom Building is the first completed structure in the Houston area built with a type of engineered wood called hardwood and is the largest such university facility in the country, according to the college.

“It takes your breath away,” college provost Van Wigginton said of the 122,000-square-foot multi-storey structure, which has 60 classrooms for math, English, pre-engineering and arts. social science. “The feel is just different – everything is designed to create openness.”

Mass timber construction, an alternative to concrete and steel, uses engineered wood for the structural components of a building to reduce its carbon footprint.

Wigginton, who has worked at the college for nearly 28 years, said the building, which costs about $37 million, makes a strong statement.

San Jacinto College will host an official grand opening of its Anderson-Ball Classroom Building, the region’s first structure constructed entirely of mass timber, at an event open to the public.

When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 16

Where: 8060 Spencer Hwy, Pasadena, TX

Building information:https://bit.ly/3OUFjlp

San Jacinto College Website:https://www.sanjac.edu/

“The building in a way demonstrates our commitment to the community and creating a positive learning environment for students,” he said. “That’s really the centerpiece of it.”

Building completed in March

The building replaces the now-demolished Anderson Tech and Ball Tech complex, and was part of the college’s San Jac Tomorrow 2015 capital improvement program. It consists of a three-story wing connected to a two-story one by a central hall.

In a log building, the main load-bearing system – the columns, beams and deck – is made up of layers of wood glued together in a cross pattern to form larger pieces considered to be as durable as steel or concrete and more. fire resistant than more common types of lumber. The Anderson-Ball Building has approximately 353 CLT panels in the roof, floors, and elevator and stairwells.

The use of mass timber in commercial buildings is relatively recent, according to Michelle Old, the building’s principal designer, who works for Kirksey Architecture, which also designed the five-story, 57,500-square-foot Hanszen College wing of mass timber. from Rice University. This residence is under construction.

Most commonly used in Europe, Canada and the Pacific, solid wood is considered an alternative to steel and concrete due to its cost effectiveness and because wood is a renewable resource.

“There is sustainability in using solid wood for building structures,” Old said.

The wood used in the Anderson-Ball building is black spruce that was shipped from Canada by train. Construction took about 15 months before the building was completed in March. The construction process was quieter and less disruptive than a traditional construction site due to the lack of steel and concrete, Old said.

The college and the Old team hosted two mass timber architecture conferences throughout 2021, inviting representatives from the City of Pasadena and other entities to discuss the benefits of mass timber.

“What’s great about San Jac is that they’ve really embraced sustainability with this building,” Old said.

The Anderson-Ball building has about 990 solar panels on the roof. It recycles water from toilets and drains to limit the risk of pollutants entering local water bodies while reducing water demand and utility costs for the campus. Electrochromic glass controls heat and glare. Plaques on the interior walls inform visitors about the solid wood architecture.

Practical reasons for solid wood

For San Jac, the choice of solid wood was both environmental and economical.

San Jacinto College was one of 10 U.S. colleges to each receive $100,000 under the Mass Timber University Grant Program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. The Rice Project also received one of the grants.

“The College is not tasked with promoting mass timber as a technology, but it was a cost-effective way for us to provide the space to educate our students,” Charles Smith, associate vice chancellor of fiscal initiatives and capital of San Jacinto College. projects, in a press release during the first phase of construction.

For example, the Anderson-Ball building was built on an existing foundation.

“When you have two buildings and you can keep the existing foundation, you can build on top of those two buildings because the solid wood was so light,” Old said. “With steel or concrete, a contractor would have had to install a new foundation. There is less material, less concrete.

While the structure is solid wood, the architecture of the new building incorporates decorative elements such as the original marble and a bas-relief panel from the demolished buildings, which were built in the 1960s, to bridge between the past and the present of San Jac. The red brick exterior is similar to the original campus buildings.

A building to stimulate thinking “outside the box”?

Along with eco-friendly elements and aesthetics, log architecture uses an approach aimed at connecting a building’s occupants to nature.

“Our goal was to make the wood visible everywhere – we wanted people to know that these are the bones of the building,” Old said. “There’s something pure about it. It brings nature in and has that indoor-outdoor feel. It is not just a structural element. As you enter the common areas, natural wood is all around you and you feel that warmth of wood.

This approach is exemplified by the use of glass to project a kind of transparency and wider open spaces. The building will have more informal spaces for students to meet and collaborate outside of class than a more formal college classroom building.

“Traditionally, when you think of a classroom in the old model, you had desks, students lined up, and a lecture,” Wigginton said. “This new space allows us to create collaborative classrooms, and employers and universities are looking for students who can collaborate as a team.”

Wigginton believes the architecture and natural elements of the building will inspire a bolder and more creative approach to the academic process.

“This building really allows us to foster an environment where students can think outside the box, can really be thought disrupters,” he said.

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