The project team for Pomona College’s new student housing complex was tasked with honoring the school’s architectural heritage while ushering in its new sustainability agenda. The development, the first student residence in California to receive LEED Platinum certification, consists of two residence halls that house 150 students in suites made up of three, four, and five private bedrooms. The dwellings are intended for upperclassmen and were built to address a growing need on campus to provide apartment-style living for older students who might otherwise move off campus.
From the top down, the structure is chock-full of high-performance technologies that don’t detract from the historic ambience. Architect Steven Ehrlich reimagined the terra-cotta on the original buildings’ sloped roofs into horizontal plank sunscreens. Glazed clerestories and concrete exterior walls with punched openings found on the older buildings reappear on the new structures, but with high-performance operable glass units and insulated precast wall panels.
“We wanted our project to resonate with the school’s history, and to be contextual while at the same time modern and progressive both in terms of architectural style and building performance,” Ehrlich says.
He carefully sized and placed windows to optimize natural daylight into each space, and provide more than 95 percent of all regularly occupied spaces with a direct view to the outdoors. A 165-square-foot natural turf playing field on top of the underground garage is used for intramural Frisbee tournaments, lacrosse training, socializing, and sunbathing.
Ehrlich’s close collaboration with the school included weekly meetings with the project task force consisting of numerous stakeholders including students, staff, and administrators that extended from the beginning of programming to the end of construction.
The judges were wowed by the many sustainable features packed into the project, which also include rainwater reuse and retention, low-VOC paints and adhesives, bike storage, and drought-resistant landscaping. Flat roofs clad with cool roof thermoplastic membranes support PV arrays, rooftop gardens, and eco-classrooms.
“They nailed the major green components and they did it in a really cool way,” the panel said.
For an extremely well-insulated building shell, architect Steven Ehrlich chose to construct the residence halls with Thermomass precast concrete panels, which consist of two layers of 3- and 5-inch-thick concrete thermally separated by 3 inches of foam insulation. The assembly provides thermal mass to help regulate the building’s heat gain and loss by absorbing heat from interiors during the day and slowly releasing it at night. He left them fully exposed on the interior as well as the exterior for extra durability inside the suites.
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