Maier Hall

Maier Hall, Port Angeles - Washington, Schacht Aslani Architects
Construction year: 2010
Address: 1502 E Lauridsen Boulevard | PORT ANGELES-WASHINGTON | United States
Latitude/Longitude: 48.1006, -123.411

Maier Hall provides a center for Peninsula College’s arts, humanities, and instructional support programs, creating a place for students and faculty to engage in the college’s academic community. The new facility will serve the college’s mission to provide the central point for higher education on the Olympic Peninsula.

Maier Hall is sited harmoniously within the complex landscape of its site, which includes virgin forests, wetlands, and a sensitive ravine. The building creates a gateway to the wetlands to the south, allowing people to pass through the building and proceed onto a viewing platform at the wetland edge.  A system of student study spaces views out over the wetland, creating a sense of community within the building and fostering interaction between users. Design commenced with an Eco-Charette that included the entire design team and members of the college.

Sustainable highlights include: storm-water runoff is directed to the wetland for on-site infiltration and wetland rehabilitation; daylight harvesting is used throughout the building to reduce energy use; geo-exchange energy source is used for radiant heating and cooling; natural ventilation via manual and automatic operable windows; stair towers used for stack effect; epiphytic (moss) living roof reduces afternoon glare for third story faculty offices and reduces heat-island effect; and, exterior solar shading devices block direct sunlight to reduce glare in critical task areas and reduce solar heat gain.

Ecology Based Land Use

The site for Maier Hall was determined by Peninsula College’s Master Plan. The plan is partly based on the college’s proud connection to its picturesque surroundings (often referring to itself “The College in the Trees”) and outlines the relationship of buildings to open space and the natural landscape within the campus. Maier Hall provides an anchor in the southeast corner of campus, connecting to existing outdoor spaces and organizing open space around the existing grove of conifers.

Maier Hall is shaped by existing natural features of the site. These include a mature grove of conifers on the site, a wetland and a sensitive ravine. To minimize the building’s footprint, the design team obtained a height variance from the city to achieve a three-story volume. The building replaces four seismically-deficient and sprawling one-story buildings. By stacking the program, Maier Hall restores thousands of square feet of campus to its pre-development condition. The three-story building, woven between the trees and wetlands, situates its occupants in a powerful relationship to the surrounding ecosystem – the art studios are situated in the canopy, while student study lounges and the lobby overlook the restored wetlands.

The wetlands and expansive temperate rainforest to the south of the site compelled the design team to think of the building as not only a cornerstone of the institution, but also a gateway to the natural landscape. The building is pulled apart at the lobby, allowing a pass-through to the wetlands and forest south of the campus and acting as a trailhead to the wetland trails to the south. The main approach encourages visitors to follow a path under the building’s second level, out to a pier that overlooks the flow spreaders and wetlands. The reclaimed landcape will be planted with native species as a series of plant communities typical to the area, furthering the notion that the educational program not only be found on blackboards in the building but also outdoors on the site.

The consulting wetland biologist found that the wetlands have been suffering from a lack of water supply due to the existing campus storm water system. To restore the health of the wetland, Maier Hall is collecting on-site storm water and routing it to back to the wetland, as well as revegetating the buffer area with native plants. The hydrology is expressed through an exposed runnel that runs along the lobby curtain wall sill, traversing the building’s pass-through and dispersing in flow spreaders at the wetland edge. Water and the occupants share the same path to the wetland edge, simultaneously reinforcing the physical connection and telling the story of rehabilitation.

Energy independence

Through the use of 100% geothermal energy, 100% natural ventilation, 100% daylight harvesting and careful attention to fenestration relative to solar exposure, Maier Hall is 20% ahead of the 2010 target of the Architecture 2030 Challenge to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels by 60% kBtu/sf/yr.

Space planning and building massing are critical to achieving energy efficiency. The arts wing is elongated in the east-west direction to capitalize on the even light and minimal heat gain available from broad north and south exposures. The performance hall, where daylight is undesirable, occupies a large portion of the north wing, which, due to site constraints, has broad east and west exposures. The 80’ tall grove of trees immediately west of the north wing shades the classroom and office spaces in the late afternoon when harsh west light is typically problematic. The eastern exposure also benefits from shade provided by the forest to the east. Additionally, through extensive testing with the integrated Design lab, the design team developed a system of horizontal and vertical shading devices at windows subjected to direct sunlight.

The section of the building plays a critical role in energy efficiency, not only from a daylight and solar heat gain perspective, but also by facilitating a natural ventilation strategy and eliminating the need for cooling in much of the building. The building is narrow and tall, with cross ventilation and ceiling fans utilized in classrooms and offices. The stair towers at each end and the one at the center of the building are used for stack ventilation. All windows contain operable lites – in occupied spaces the windows are manually operated and in public spaces the windows are operated by the buildings DDC system.

Two other major projects have been completed on campus since 2004, both using geothermal energy source. Oil and electric heat are the only traditional heating options on the North Olympic Peninsula since natural gas infrastructure is not in place. The college has accepted the increased up-front costs involved with installing geothermal well fields in order to affirm their commitment to the use of sustainable energy.

Water Balance

Maier Hall intentionally modifies the local water flow of the site in order to restore the hydrological cycle to pre-development (pre-1960) conditions and restore the health of the wetlands to the south of the site. Currently, though there is too much groundwater on the property, the wetlands are suffering from a lack of water due to the existing campus storm water management system. The consulting wetland biologist modeled the hydrological impact of Maier Hall and recommended that the project divert storm water to the wetlands. By doing so, the wetland ecology will benefit in terms of biodiversity. Invasive species of blackberry will be naturally replaced with native wetland species.  Maier Hall also includes a deep French drain along the top of the sensitive ravine that has been identified by the geotechnical engineers as an active landslide. Dewatering this hillside encourages the native forest to mature along the slope and promotes stabilization. Water collected in the French drain is diverted downstream and dissipated in a less sensitive section of the ravine.

An epiphytic (moss) living roof has been located on portions of the roof in order to reduce the solar glare in the office suite as well as retain some of the rainwater on site during the wet season.

Within the building, plumbing fixtures such as dual flush toilets and pint flush urinals have been specified to reduce potable water usage. The landscape design includes native plantings that require no permanent irrigation systems.

Social Equity

Maier Hall offers a diverse array of educational programs, collocated in a remarkable natural setting.  The programs are arranged around a large public lobby and mezzanine study lounge that encourages social interaction and spontaneous exchange of ideas and perspectives. The ground floor includes the most sophisticated music venue on the olympic Peninsula, Basic Skills and Learning Center (an adult basic education and tutoring facility), as well as the Ceramics program. The second level contains the Music, Math and English programs. Finally, the third level houses the drawing and painting studios, additional classrooms, as well a faculty office suite. All of the programs are entered and exited through a central atrium with generous space for mixing of the diverse occupants. As a community college, many of the programs, such as Basic Skills and Ceramics, are geared toward non-degree community outreach. Programs such as these, along with the performance hall, provide significant cultural and educational contributions for the community of the north Peninsula.

The Basic Skills and Learning Center has been located on the first floor immediately adjacent to the main public entry for ease of access for those students least comfortable in institutional learning environments.

In terms of construction method, the project is funded by the State of Washington and is publically bid. The nature of the public low-bid process encourages the use of the local work force. on the most recent capital project on the campus, the general contractor was from Seattle and many of the sub-contractors, including mechanical, electrical, concrete, wall and ceilings, and painting, were from the local communities of Sequim and Port Angeles.

Healthy Human Ecology

Maier Hall is a public instructional facility sited in an extraordinary natural landscape. Careful attention during design was paid to connecting the occupants to the natural environment surrounding the building. The building section plays a critical role in ensuring this connection. Through shallow floor plates, daylight penetrates deep into the occupied spaces. Skylights are used to balance daylight in large classrooms such as art studios and all public areas.  All user-occupied spaces are equipped with manually operable windows so that occupants can adjust the fresh air flow through their spaces. These windows also offer generous views to the outdoors – often into the canopy of the mature forest or out over the wetlands to the south.

The project includes several indoor air quality assurance measures. Materials are specified to minimize vOCs and other indoor air pollutants. Walk-off mats are used at building entries to minimize air pollutants from foot traffic. The separation of the ground floor into two buildings not only connects the interior of campus to wetlands, but also strategically isolates the ceramics program from the rest of the building. This separation eliminates the common art-facility problem of tracking silica dust out of ceramics studios through the rest of the building. The design team includes an industrial hygienist to ensure a properlydesigned mechanical system that can handle the loads produced by the art programs.

Acoustically, Maier Hall is complex. Due to a variety of programs, careful attention has been paid to providing appropriate acoustic environments through a team of consulting acousticians. The music program is located in the arts wing, isolated from the general instructional space in the north wing. However, the design team and the owner are interested in allowing some music to leak out of the program spaces into the public spaces of the building and adjacent landscape.

The performance hall is physically shaped by acoustical requirements. The walls and ceiling are heavily articulated to reflect and disperse sound optimally in the hall. To allow for a variety of programs that will take place within the hall, flexible acoustics, comprised of a system of velour drapes that travel across the wall surfaces of the hall to
deaden or liven the space, are employed. Though an infinite amount of tuning is possible, three presets will be programmed for the users: music, lecture, and poetry.

Place-Based Design

Maier Hall is the largest building on the Peninsula College campus. The building provides a physical edge to campus as well as acting as a gateway to the natural landscape beyond. The building’s form and envelope articulate this concept through its use of the campus-standard material palette of brick and panelized cladding. The ‘outer’ elevations facing the forest are brick with punched openings, while the ‘inner’ campus elevations use a more permeable, panelized skin. The rhythmic, syncopated fenestration pattern is derived from musical rhythms and is carefully tuned to respond to the solar conditions on the north and west facades.

The building addresses the campus master plan goal of connecting three major new buildings and their respective open spaces. Maier Hall cradles the open space around an existing grove of trees interior to campus, while maintaining visual connections to the front doors of the new Science and Technology Building and the Library.

The project’s site was carefully determined by existing natural constraints: the grove of mature conifers to the west, the wetlands to the south and a sensitive ravine to the east. The building’s form is a direct product of slipping in between the site constraints. Stacking the program onto this tight footprint results in a building that is intimately connected – visually, physically, and hydrologically – to the place in which it lives.

Collaborative, integrated design ProCess

Maier Hall is shaped by the varied perspectives and experience of not only the architectural design team, consulting engineers and specialists, but also the numerous owner and user groups. The project went through two schematic building footprints as the owner developed their own understanding of the importance of existing site features – most notably the stand of mature trees interior to campus. During the first schematic design exercise, the architects and engineers encouraged the owner to remove a portion of the trees to accommodate an atrium building, rectangular in plan and elongated east to west. This first footprint maximized structural and space planning efficiencies and was ideal for solar orientation and natural ventilation; however, it required the removal of more trees interior to campus than the owner desired. At this point, the design team revisited the site with a new understanding of the constraints, and developed the current, “L” shaped scheme. While less efficient in terms of space planning, the new scheme maintained successful daylighting and natural ventilation systems, and minimized the impact on existing natural features of the site.

While developing a system for the green roof, the design team was faced with a set of unique criteria. Storm water retention at the roof was not recommended, as it increased cost in roofing systems and structure. Also, it did not provide any local hydrological benefit due to the need for additional water in the adjacent wetlands. However, the second level roof is looked out upon by occupants in the third level, and a green roof was desirable. The design team consulted with a local, Native-American architect living in a home/studio in the foothills of the olympic Mountains who was experimenting with moss roofs. The moss roof is specific to the temperate rainforest ecology of the site, it is lightweight, it requires little maintenance and it has no invasive root system to damage the roof membrane. Along with the local architect, the design team is also working with the roofing manufacturer to develop a system that meets their warranty requirements.

Collaboration with the client, consulting engineers, product representatives and industry
experts provides the framework within which the design process unfolds. Progress is checked by weekly design/coordination meetings in-house, followed by monthly consultant meetings. The entire design team then presents to the owner and user groups at milestone meetings throughout the process.

Project Owner: Peninsula College (Port Angeles, WA)
Projects Area: 62,950 sf
Civil Engineering: KPFF Consulting Engineers
Landscape Architecture: Nakano Associates
Structural Engineering: Magnusson Klemencic
Mechanical Engineering: Flack + Kurtz
Electrical Engineering: Sparling
Lighting Design: Candela
Commissioning: Macdonald Miller
Sustainable Strategies: O\’Brien & Company
Wetland Consulting: Westech Company
Green Roof Consulting: Archiphyte, LLC

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