Entry plaza to The Center for Sciences and Innovation at Trinity University
By Alan Butler AIA, LEED AP
Project-based learning is at the forefront of teaching in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) disciplines in both K-12 and Higher Education. A new generation of innovative science buildings are being designed that support this new active learning pedagogy.
This past week I attended a conference in San Antonio, Texas on creating STEM buildings for Higher Education institutions. We heard from faculty, architects and educational thinkers about the evolution of science education and laboratory design and toured the new Center for the Sciences and Innovation at Trinity University. Their new STEM building embodied many of the concepts we explored together during interactive conference sessions.
What are the hallmarks of a 21st century science teaching facility? Foremost they are about active and project-based learning. These are environments where students become agents of their own learning and work both collaboratively and individually to solve real world problems. The buildings are transparent and accommodating, making science visible and blurring the boundaries between the laboratory and the classroom. With plenty of “soft spaces” they become a magnet for students and build a supportive community of science learners.
At the Center for The Sciences and Innovation at Trinity University we saw labs with floor to ceiling glass, making the activity of the labs less mysterious and immensely inviting. On every floor, formal and informal study spaces were full of science (and non-science) students who inhabit the building almost around the clock. Write up spaces, separate but housed within the labs, become the places where, it was pointed out, all the data from the labs is transformed into learning. These are also spaces where students can study, collaborate and meet with faculty.
While the entire building is a beacon, reaching out to the greater campus community, the highlight of the facility is the Innovation Studio, a multi-modal maker space surrounded by shops, computer design labs and meeting spaces. The Innovation Studio, which is part of the Engineering Department, reaches out to all the sciences and the greater campus as a place for students to make their projects real. This facility will have strong links to the Business and Entrepreneurship programs within the University.
Link to expanded White Paper…
Two Slimline tanks that will hold 1,060 Gallons of rainwater.
By Alan Butler AIA
This weekend I installed a thousand gallons of rainwater storage tanks in my side yard. I found some very nice Bushman Slimline tanks that are only 25” wide, fit neatly in my side yard, and still allow me to get by with the trashcans and the wheelbarrow. They collect roughly half of the water from my roof, and with a thousand square feet of roof area I can fill the tanks with 1 3/4 “ of rain. They were a fair amount of work to move around – weighing nearly 300 pounds apiece and being seven feet long and six and a half feet tall, it was a real trick for three of us to unload them. Once we pushed the tanks into place, I installed piping that led from the gutters to the tanks. With piping complete and a light rain on Sunday, I finally heard the satisfying sound of the rainwater flowing into the tanks.
While installing the tanks, one of my neighbors walked by and we started talking about the concept of payback. As with my home, he installed photovoltaic panels on his roof a couple of years ago. He related the story of attending an informational meeting about solar panels just before he put in his system. One member of the audience kept asking: “But what’s the payback?.” He related to me that while a friend of his bought a new Mercedes for $50,000 that same year, he bought a new Prius and his solar panel system. Nobody asked his friend what the payback was on his new Mercedes! My neighbor’s electric bills have dropped dramatically and in approximately seven to ten years the system will have paid for itself. He said even with economic facts in play, it was equally or more important for him to do the right thing. I won’t go into the whole argument about renewable energy, carbon dioxide and our current unsettled weather.
I looked at my utility bill for the first time in detail on Sunday evening. I found that our household uses three to five thousand gallons a month during a normal rainy winter and an astonishing twenty-five thousand gallons a month during the warmest part of the year. A thousand gallons of water probably costs only $15 when you look at all the flat fees and related sewer charges. If we have a really rainy spring and I’m diligent about using my harvested rainwater, my payback for the tanks might be fifteen rather than thirty years. Not a really compelling economic argument but…
I’ve already become a more conscientious consumer as the result of reading my bills carefully for the first time. My bills will likely drop as result. If we have a severe drought and have to cut back or eliminate landscape watering, I’ll be able to keep my lemon trees and vegetable garden going this summer. Unlike the luxury car, it really will pay back in both economic and less tangible, but significant ways. I feel like I’ve made the right decision. I’ll stick with my Toyota Hybrid too!
The Aurora Behavioral Health Psychiatric Hospital in Santa Rosa has reached another milestone in their efforts to bring the facility to full operating capacity. TLCD Architecture enjoyed working with Aurora Behavioral Health for the renovation of the facility and are gratified to have been a small part of their efforts to bring quality mental healthcare back to Sonoma County. Please read the North Bay Business Journal article for the full story.
IF YOU BUILD IT is a captivating movie that follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller to rural North Carolina where they work with local high school students to transform their community and lives. Pilloton and Miller lead their students through a year-long design and build project that does more than teach just basic construction skills – it shows them the power of design-thinking to reinvent their town and what is possible.
The movie will be released on February 28th at the Landmark Cinema in San Francisco and the Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley. It opens March 1st at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael. Watch the trailer and be inspired!
Thanks to my SMPS group for sharing this great link!
TLCD Architecture’s first laser cutter arrived today amid a lot of excitement – and a demonstration that cut out the letters “TLCD” from a piece of wood. The freestanding unit (VLS 6.60) is designed and engineered for light manufacturing operations. We will use it to cut through a variety of media such as cardboard and acrylic, and to engrave various materials including metal. The unit is also capable of laser graphic imaging.
Our laser cutter will help create physical architectural ideas from sketches and 3-D programs (Rhino3D). The unit will be used to produce finished models, but we are most excited about the ability to produce study models that will be used in the process of design exploration.
This is the first of several tools that TLCD plans to acquire for our shop space at our new office in Museum on the Square. These tools will allow us to more effectively explore new materials and technologies, and will allow us to better communicate our ideas.
TLCD Group Hike at Taylor Mountain Regional Park
Architecture has formed two teams of 9 for the Live Healthy Sonoma County 10 Week Wellness Challenge… team New Dimension and The Flying Buttresses! As a Gold member of the Sonoma County iWORK Well program, TLCD has had a workplace wellness program called the Fit Force in place for 5 years. This Wellness Challenge comes at the perfect time of year when the colder winter weather (in theory) drives us all indoors. The two teams will focus on exercise, healthy eating habits and team building using the Live Healthy website to track results.
The end result will be a wonderfully fit staff…many of whom will be participating in the Human Race that follows in early May. Follow us as we share stories and photos of our Wellness Challenge!