As the student population grew at the Armstrong campus of Georgia Southern University, so did the need for expansion.
The planners at this expanding university in Savannah, Georgia, sought a solution. They concentrated on renovating two neighboring one-story structures near the Student Union and the main library, Lane Library. If combined and renovated, the buildings could provide a practical and innovative way to advance their expansion plan efficiently.
One building constructed in 1982 previously housed a campus bookstore. Information Technology Services (ITS) currently occupies the Memorial College Center, constructed in 1965.
There's a possibility of relocating ITS to a new campus facility. The vacated buildings would produce roughly 14,500 sq. ft. of reusable space.
The planners’ foresight would pay off, as it paved the way for designing and constructing what is now Armstrong’s Learning Commons. It serves as an extension to Lane Library. The virtual library has technology-rich learning venues for interactive group or individual study.
Additionally, it has an abundance of energy efficiencies. One example includes a sunshade of Aluminum Bar Grating from McNICHOLS CO. This sunshade helps to qualify the building as “green” or environmentally friendly.
When it came to construction and operating expenses, cost efficiency was a priority. Another priority was the need for design elements compatible with other campus buildings. These two structures under renovation, like other campus structures, were built in different decades.
The Savannah-based architectural project firm Cogdell & Mendrala had to bridge the eras. Another challenge was incorporating aesthetically pleasing features appropriate to the facility’s new purpose.
The south entry of the Learning Common faces the student quad, making it a heavily used area. It would also have a significant visual impact along the pedestrian path. This is a high-traffic area for the university’s 7,500 students, faculty, and visitors.
Additionally, with its southern exposure and tall curtain wall of glazed glass, this entry required sunscreen to reduce the solar impact in a material that would match the natural anodized finish of the curtain wall and roof fascia.
Furthermore, given its southern orientation and the towering curtain wall made of glazed glass, this entrance necessitated the use of sunscreen. The goal was to diminish the solar effects using a material that harmonized with the natural anodized finish of both the curtain wall and roof fascia.
While the sunscreen was integral to the entrance, a site condition of a different nature existed on the opposite side of the building where a working mechanical courtyard was located. This area, which included HVAC units and other equipment essential to campus operations, was in direct view from the President’s Dining Room, located on the second floor of the nearby Student Union.
Faced with the challenge, Don Cogdell, AIA, and the Cogdell & Mendrala project team considered an Aluminum Bar Grating option that would solve a functional as well as aesthetic need.
As the primary architect of the Learning Commons and other campus facilities, Cogdell & Mendrala was familiar with the building designs throughout the campus. They were also acquainted with McNICHOLS® Aluminum Bar Grating. Frequently used as a flooring material, the product has evolved into creative applications for sunscreens and decorative features that conceal operating equipment.
“We wanted to make the statement that this is a current building, separate from those built in 1965 and 1982, yet blends well into the campus setting,” said Cogdell, who saw metal Bar Grating as a design feature that would help bridge the gap from the past to present day.
By adding the sunscreen, with the help of the general contractor, Garbutt Construction Co. of Dublin, Georgia, Cogdell would achieve the objective. Approximately 4 by 10 feet in size, the clear anodized Aluminum Bar Grating was installed above the entry doors by Garbutt’s team.
At one inch by 3/16ths inch thick, the material has a 77 percent open area. The Aluminum Bar Grating, custom cut by McNICHOLS into various specified sizes. Stainless steel rods secure the grating onto a metal frame attached to the roof.
Ironically, a similar metal Bar Grating in varying anodized finishes was the answer to transforming the industrial look of the mechanical courtyard into a more aesthetically pleasing environment seen from the President’s Dining Hall. The anodized panels for this application varied from its natural hue to light to dark bronze. Creatively arranging them with both function and aesthetics in mind.
The open area of the Aluminum Bar Grating allows air circulation necessary for the mechanical equipment to function. Additionally, the color and placement of the panels gave the arrangement of the varying metals a sculpture-like appearance when viewed from above.
"Our concept was to create dimension and shadowing," said Cogdell. Noting that the panels were placed along a structural grid that extends across the courtyard and positioned at various angles and heights.
According to Mel Manor, Armstrong-campus Construction Project Manager, the Aluminum Bar Grating is a unique feature that blends well on campus. "The majority of the campus buildings have structural steel framing components, such as louvers and grating, which in some cases are exposed to view,” he said. “This is the first time bar grating has been utilized on campus for this application."
With renovations complete, Learning Commons was open to the public. The new facility also included rooftop solar panels and a vegetated green live roof. The U.S. Green Building Council awarded it LEED Gold certification, considering it a model of efficiency and design.
The reuse project also received an Innovation Award for Design and Technology from the University System of Georgia. The expansion received the First-Place Award in the 2013 Build Georgia Awards Program. In 2014, the building received top honors for the AGC Sustainable Construction Award and first place in the AGC Build Georgia Award.