Award Winner - May 2012
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Health and Learning Center
Northern Arizona University

Flagstaff, Arizona

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

Cannon Design in Grand Island, N.Y.

Size: 247,951-square-foot addition, 39,693-square-foot renovation

Project Cost: $83 million

Quick Tour:

  • Medical clinic
  • Classrooms
  • Court space
  • Climbing and bouldering wall
  • Public areas
  • Cardio and strength rooms
  • Fitness classrooms
  • Outdoor track and field
  • Stadium
  • Parking

Despite being set among one of the most beautiful landscapes in the West, Northern Arizona University's former 20-year-old recreation center was dark and disconnected. But times have changed, and the modern-day student experience requires a highly permeable building that connects activity inside and out. This vision is realized in the new Health and Learning Center, which effectively consolidates disparate student recreation and health programs.

The NAU Health and Learning Center is a fusion building that includes a 57,000-square-foot medical clinic, 70,000 square feet of classrooms, a 121,000-square-foot student recreation center and a 40,000-square-foot athletics component to replace most of the stadium. Bringing these programs together from their decentralized locations creates a significant improvement to the quality of student life on campus. The combination of these programs into a single $83.2 million, 288,000-square-foot renovation and expansion project is estimated to have saved the university at least $20 million. The site is now a central student destination that links student life and academic experience and sees up to 1,700 students per hour pass through.

The building structural frame wall, constructed of both concrete and steel, is uniquely important. The steel frame was used in the recreation and athletic area where long spans and erection speed were critical considerations. The combination of systems allowed for simultaneous construction of the entire building structure, helping complete the project five months ahead of schedule.

Inside the facility, visuals take center stage, with fitness center windows overlooking the stadium, an indoor track with views of campus and multi-activity courts and a window-lined lower level featuring a climbing wall and bouldering area. Extensive interior glazing is used to connect activity within spaces and from outside in and inside out. Acid etched mirror glass panels are used in the main atrium's hall to help spread natural light, adding a playful sense of delight. The project also features graphics throughout the building in both print and addressable digital format, while media walls create a smart interior environment that allows conventional space to transform into event space.

Due to the layering of programs, acoustical considerations were crucial. Tectum wall panels, made from a highly recyclable material, absorb and buffer sound. In addition, the panels have a sculptural texture that, when used in large vertical wall planes, provides a sense of warmth and interest as the surface interplays with a wash of natural light.

The facility is seeking LEED Silver certification and incorporates a number of sustainable solutions. Building orientation and glazing work with program placement to connect to the North and South views of the Flagstaff area while protecting the East and West edge with large overhangs and limited glazing. A 55 percent reduction in domestic water usage was achieved through low-flow fixtures and connection to a grey water piping loop. A high-performance building skin optimizes energy, and daylighting in public spaces reduces the need for artificial lighting. Taking further advantage of the sun, 102 solar panels on the roof provide 70 percent of the domestic hot water.


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