The Center of Arts and Media (CAM) cast a soft colorful glow Nov. 7 as the official Opening commenced from the late afternoon sunset into the night. Whether entering CAM on the far southeast corner, or entering at the new east entry, impressed visitors enjoyed every angle. The former led visitors through an exterior garden and water feature court, and then a teasing view inside of the President’s Art Show featuring student artwork. The latter passed visitors through a curved glass façade and undulating interior resembling sound waves, then past a colonnade that leads into the tall space that was once the South High School’s choir room.
Among the event’s guests were Libby Haslam and Curtis Clark, two representatives of GSBS Architects, the designers responsible for the project. Both were impressed during their walk through. The Open House event was an evening for celebrating, particularly for GSBS Architects, whose years’ long involvement dated back to 2009.
“It has been an amazing project for us,” says Haslam, who served as project architect for CAM since the firm was awarded the design contract in May, 2009. “It’s been my life since then, and a pretty amazing journey actually.”
The CAM was only one portion of a multi-phased project that stretched across two campuses, and included the demolishing of the old auto trades building at the Taylorsville-Redwood Campus, according to Haslam. That demolition cleared way for the recently opened Instruction and Administration Building, not designed incidentally by GSBS.
CAM’s scope: three new buildings, designed for LEED
“For us, this was a much larger project, which is why it took so long. Some people say it took too long, but considering that it was so many packages, it makes sense,” says Haslam. “It was really a big and complex project.”
Summarizing the scope simply, the CAM project included three new buildings:
1) the Career Technical Education (CTE) building, part of the Salt Lake School District,
2) the Annex Building that houses SLCC’s Facilities Services shop space and the Grand Theater’s scenery shop, and
3) the Center of Arts and Media that relocated SLCC’s Communication, Visual Arts and Design, Film, and Music programs, among others, from Taylorsville-Redwood to the South City Campus.
“That was the bulk of the project,” says Haslam referring to the Center of Arts and Media. “There were also several remodels that happened in the 1929 building, such as the locker room, some offices, and renovation of the Grand Theater dressing rooms.”
The new buildings were all designed to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, a recognized program to qualify buildings as energy efficient and sustainable, but only the Annex was tabulated with LEED Credits to become Certified Silver. The others merely benefit from good design while saving SLCC the costs of pursuing pricey LEED certification.
Energy Modeling by GSBS and Rocky Mountain Power
“We modeled that building [the Annex] and we got it Certified,” says Curtis Clark, the director of sustainability services for GSBS Architects, and who also instructs SLCC students in the Green Academy’s Energy Management program.
Clark, an engineer by education and training, has a history with the CAM project from both the owner side and the design side.
“Prior to working for GSBS, I was State Energy Manager for the State of Utah,” says Clark, whose role included assessing and meeting energy standards DFCM (Division of Facilities Construction and Management) required of all state-owned buildings. It was this level of specialized experience that put Clark in the pioneering role to help launch an educational program in energy management at SLCC, first (and still only) of its kind in Utah.
This was at a time when DFCM did not require all state buildings be LEED Certified; now all new buildings are required to be a minimum LEED Silver rated. Higher ratings include Gold and Platinum.
“So when we were awarded the [CAM] project, the State had not yet adopted that every building was to be LEED Silver. In fact, they adopted that just after we were awarded the CAM project,” says Haslam.
Of the various component projects, only the Annex applied for LEED Certification. The portion for Salt Lake City School District housing their CTE and Innovations High School at the far southern end of the CAM did not go through the LEED process because they were “not really interested in that,” says Clark.
“It was just too messy.”
The CAM was composed of part new building and part renovation of existing structures, so defining any clear boundaries of each portion to fit into LEED’s categories became too complicated and costly to pursue.
“Because the boundaries of the project were fragmented into the existing building, it just wouldn’t work for us. We would have had to go through and try to certify it as an Existing Building, O & M project [a LEED classification type] and that didn’t work either,” explained Clark.
“One of the issues was that we would have had to update the plumbing fixtures for the existing building, and update all the lighting systems in order to get it [LEED] Certified – major renovations that was not part of the project. The school [SLCC] decided not to go down that path,” says Clark.
While GSBS Architects prepared the energy analysis model for the Annex building, Rocky Mountain Power did the model for the CTE and the CAM, according to Clark.
“What we did was collaborated with them and our design team to come up with the best solution. And we got an incentive from Rocky Mountain Power. The CTE got an incentive of about $15,000 and the Center of Arts and Media was about $30,000,” says Clark.
The analyses and incentives from Rocky Mountain Power as part of the process include a review of the construction document drawings and specifications, and a verification review after construction is complete. The final review verifies the designed building systems and all the energy efficiency measures are working as intended.
“The college hired a commissioner to go through the building to make sure everything is working properly and then they will document or certify items per their program to see if it is actually functioning as it was intended,” says Clark.
Once that process is complete, the incentive checks from Rocky Mountain Power will be delivered to SLCC.
The large existing structure facing State Street is the former 1929-built South High School for the Salt Lake City School District that operated between 1931 and 1988. Like the other remodeled portions, it was also exempted from requiring any LEED Certification, but the remodel did include some updating for energy efficiency improvements.
“The 1929 building was very difficult to meet any kind of LEED criteria, and because we knew this building was going to connect to the 1929 building, it would have been extraordinarily expensive to actually push for that,” says Haslam.
In 2009, as part of renovating the old high school, all the windows were replaced with more energy efficient models, according Haslam.
“Here at GSBS, we are always looking for ways to bring daylight in or natural ventilation, or whatever we can do to make a project as sustainable as possible,” says Haslam.
This was true for the design of CAM too.
Innovative HVAC System
Colvin Engineering Associates, Inc., was the mechanical engineer responsible for designing the structure’s heating, air conditioning, and ventilation system (HVAC). The system is called an IDEC, or an indirect-direct evaporative cooling system, an optimal solution for a dry climate such as Utah. Overall, the design strategy employed with the HVAC system is a principal reason for CAM’s energy efficiency.
“We updated the central plant with more efficient chillers. We used a direct-indirect cooling on the building,” says Clark. “What that means is that our primary cooling source for the building is with water, not with electric chillers.”
“I haven’t looked at the numbers, but normally we get about 85 to 90 percent reduction in electricity for cooling, and that’s what this building is all about. So, it’s a very energy efficient cooling system,” says Clark.
Other energy efficient aspects of the HVAC system include “demand control ventilation” strategies, according to Clark. Sensors installed detect when spaces are being used or not used, and then signals a call for more or less air. This reduces ventilation loads for the building “substantially” says Clark.
“In big spaces where there are lots of people, we have carbon dioxide sensors. They adjust the correct amount of ventilation air into those spaces. In other areas, we have occupancy sensors throughout. Those are connected to the ventilation system, so when people exit the space, the ventilation air closes,” says Clark.
“That’s saving energy.”
The flow of air was thoughtfully considered for the special studio spaces, including the film and broadcast television studios, where air movement could cause unwanted background noise recorded during video camera production or audio recordings.
“The two studios actually have their own air handling unit that only services the broadcast studio and the film studio for acoustical reasons and also so that the air flow was independent in those rooms,” says Haslam.
“And those two air handling units, because of acoustics, have really big ducts so that it is a lot of volume of air that comes into the space, but very gently. This is so you don’t hear it like you can hear the background noise in other buildings. It’s lower velocity.”
Clark agrees, as it was something he noticed during his own walk through during CAM’s Open House.
“I didn’t hear a lot of air movement, which is good. That means the ducts were overly sized, so that the air flow rates are low and you don’t hear the whistles and don’t hear the air. That’s a really good design,” says Clark.
Efficient Envelope and Sustainable Interiors
“The envelope, we did a lot on the envelope,” says Clark. “We had to meet a requirement from the State, from DFCM, to beat ComCheck, which a code compliance tool, by 10%. At the time there was a code change, and so 10% became really hard to get. So we were doing all kinds of elaborate insulation strategies to get to those numbers.”
The result in CAM was a shell designed with good insulation, up to two layers along the perimeter up high and R-30 value insulation for the roof, according to Haslam. Another feature of the exterior walls are the green-tinted square zinc-coated panels on the exterior surface of the walls. They have both a decorative and a functional purpose.
“They are really an excellent material that we use on a lot of our projects. They will last the test of time and be up there for a long time,” says Haslam.
The panels are set on various planes to form layers, where some panels appear as raised, or embossed, while others are recessed.
“The idea of the in and out part was that it resembles pixels.”
Functionally, the panels are an integral part of a rain screen system that channels water safely behind the panels, then down and away from the weather membrane underneath.
“So it’s like a protective layer. It’s a good system to have on a building,” says Haslam.
“Other things that we did are carpets with low VOC’s [volatile organic compounds, recognized as giving off unhealthy off gasses], paint with low VOC’s, furniture and other items that have high recycled content. There are a lot of things you don’t see that, even if we aren’t going for LEED Certification, we still look for that.”
GSBS Architects also provided the design services for the landscaping and interior finishes and furnishings.
Lighting, Daylighting and Power Efficiency
“The lighting is pretty energy efficient, it beat code significantly,” says Clark, who describes the overall design as low power density with high efficiency lighting, the approach to reduce overall electricity usage in the building. For a building type such as CAM, with of lots of specialized equipment, it might be reasoned that electricity usage would be very high, but this was not the case in this instance. Some of the studios have “thin client” KVM switch boxes at student-used computer terminals in lieu of providing desktops at each station, reducing electrical consumption significantly.
“A thin client means they have a little box. In the library they have the HP’s, that basically is all solid state, and they go back to the server. It’s all thin client. Then one of the studios, or computer rooms, they have another box that’s all solid state, and you can either boot up on a PC or boot up on a Mac automatically, and there’s no hard drive. It’s all being funneled back to the server,” says Clark.
The energy savings are accumulative, adding savings on the equipment side, but also utility wise. HVAC system sizes can be appropriately reduced as well because the building’s cooling requirements are lessened.
“So when you do those kinds of strategies, you can deal with the cooling loads much more effectively in the server room. A typical desktop is about 100 watts or something like that, but these thin clients are in the neighborhood of 20 watts. That’s huge savings on the plug loads,” says Clark.
Spectrum Engineers was the electrical and lighting design consultant for CAM. Daylighting sensors were installed for light fixtures located near all perimeter windows, according to Clark. These sensors assure that light fixtures are not operating at full power when there is adequate daylight entering spaces.
Bringing natural daylight in to the building was an objective GSBS intended and achieved, not an easy task given the large volume of square footage involved on the project.
“It is kind of difficult when you have large volumes of spaces, like the studios, which really don’t want windows or daylight in that space,” says Haslam. “To bring daylight into areas buried in the middle of the building we put skylights up there where the old gym was, so we could bring daylight only into common space.”
“Then [interior] windows in the classrooms so daylight could get into the classrooms,” added Haslam about the spaces not along exterior walls.
Optimizing the amount of daylighting brought into the building while reducing the amount of solar heat gain is the strategy for selecting energy efficient windows, “a good move,” according to Clark.
“The windows were Solar Ban 70XL, so that’s a very good clear glazing. Code for solar heat gain coefficient is around 0.4—or this was the older code, so I think 0.45—and we are down to about 0.28. That’s a ratio of heat gain, so really good for clear glass,” says Clark.
Open Spaces for Gathering and Collaborating
Another objective for the building design was to create openness on the interior, creating spaces for gathering, as well as provide connections to the exterior.
“It is one of the best education buildings I have seen in a long time. I’m not the architect, forgive me, but I’ve been in thousands of buildings, a lot of education buildings, and what is different about this building is they have grand spaces within the building, very high ceilings,” says Clark.
“There is access to the outdoors, either going out to the east and sit outside, or you can go up on the second floor and go outside onto a deck. So the access to the outdoors is much better.”
Spaces in and around the CAM were planned for functionality as well.
“We designed classrooms, and designed labs, and spaces where instruction happens, but we were really interested in—and this came from the steering committee [comprised of both faculty members and people from industry]—we were really interested in this collaborative effort of working,” says Haslam.
Haslam describes the result as large spaces designed not only for allowing daylight and providing extensions of the exterior to permeate inward, but “also spaces where students could collaborate.”
“So there is a lot of informal gathering spaces with tables that are movable, and comfortable daylit spaces with the idea of pushing students in collaborating and brainstorming on projects outside of the instruction.”
“It’s really exciting to walk through the building and see the fruition of so much energy and collaboration,” says Haslam.
Opening Night Impressions and Design Team Credits
“Just the flow of spaces, and seeing it as a product of so many faculty members, staff members, consultants, design consultants,” added Haslam, “and so many people involved in such a big project that it is just nice to see it inhabited finally and being put to use.”
“It is one of the best education buildings I have seen in a long time. I’m not the architect, forgive me,” says Clark, “but I’ve been in thousands of buildings, a lot of education buildings. This is a pretty building. It’s an outstanding example of good architecture.”
Architecture, Landscape and Interior: GSBS Architects
Structural Engineer: Reaveley Engineers + Associates
Electrical Engineer: Spectrum Engineers
Mechanical Engineer: Colvin Engineering Associates, Inc
Specialty A/V and Acoustical Engineer: Charles Salter and Associates
Civil Engineer: Great Basin Engineering
Kitchen Services: Jedrziewski Designs
Rigging and theatrical lighting: Landry Bogan and Associates
Renderings: courtesy of Bowen Studios