LCCC ‘Flex Tech’ nets design award from AIA Montana

By: Travis Estvold
11 October 2017

The Flexible Industrial Technology (“Flex Tech”) Building on the campus of Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, WY, was awarded an Excellence in Design Citation during AIA Montana‘s recent Fall Conference!

Read all about the innovative facility and how it came to be in the award submission below.

The greater Cheyenne, Wyoming, area is experiencing rapid growth in a number of industries that require specialized training. Laramie County Community College is uniquely positioned to provide education in these areas of oil, gas, energy-related fields, small and large engine repair, manufacturing, and construction-related fields like HVAC. The State of Wyoming and LCCC are keeping pace with the growth in these industries with a new versatile facility — the Flexible Technology Building — to accommodate shifting programs over time as the market dictates.

Program Requirements

Flex Tech is a 48,700 sq. ft. facility for LCCC’s current Diesel Tech, Welding Tech, and Engineering Tech programs, and complementary classroom spaces. Additional capacity is designed into the program to allow for future, unpredictable growth of not only these programs, but also tech fields not yet foreseen. Therefore, maximum flexibility within the building and growth for future phases was a key guiding principle for the design.

Sustainability Goals

WATER

Plantings on site were chosen for durability, low maintenance, and water conservation. The storm water retention pond uses plants to treat and absorb contaminants and is non-irrigated. All turf areas and planting areas are designed to integrate with existing campus systems and incorporate water conservation strategies including Smart Control, drip, passive irrigation, and high-efficiency heads.

ENERGY

Concrete thermal mass in the floor and walls of the Welding and Diesel Labs assist the mechanical system by tempering indoor air temperature fluctuations. Also, exposed concrete in the north courtyard corridor acts as a passive solar collector in the winter to store energy from a low-angle winter sun in the floor and tilt-up concrete wall. Window systems in the building incorporate energy-efficient glazing to manage heat gain and loss, and control glare. Daylighting through skylights in the shop spaces is controlled by automatic dimming controls and occupancy sensors, minimizing the need for artificial lighting. Daylighting analysis and glazing performance studies informed design decisions.

Additional lighting is provided by high-performance LED luminaires, controlled by occupancy sensors. Programmable controls are utilized in general use areas such as open offices and corridors. Dark sky-compliant, cutoff-style exterior fixtures are used throughout the site, and controlled via photo sensors. The mechanical system utilizes an outdoor air economizer “free cooling” system to provide cooling using outdoor air whenever the outdoor air temperature is appropriate. The control system provides a “night purge” to use outside air to pre-cool the building during the cooling season when temperatures allow. Due to the high exhaust and outside air make-up rates required, energy recovery units offset the energy loss from dedicated air systems that provide 100% outside air to the shop spaces.

Design Solutions

LEARNING ON DISPLAY

The Flex Tech building occupies a significant site within the LCCC Campus. It is both the east terminus of the central mall linking the academic core, as well as the first impression of the college for the community. The east façade, a curtain wall of glass housing the “Flex Tech Space,” is illuminated at night to showcase the efforts of LCCC Career Tech students and put learning on display. The space sets the tone for showcasing a professional tech environment, engaging industry partners, and recruiting students, and can also be used for classrooms, conferences, or community events and receptions.

To foster greater interdisciplinary interaction and collaboration, the concept of putting learning on display also influenced transparency in the learning environment. Visual connections between classrooms and shop space, offices and shops, project areas and classrooms, and project areas and break out spaces expose students both inside and outside the Tech programs to the possibilities of the industry. This transparency also assists supervision and creates a safer Tech learning environment. Wide corridors with comfortable seating, “eddies” next to interesting spaces, and areas outside faculty offices collect students to further provoke collaboration.

BUILDING AS MACHINE

The underlying concept inspiring the design was that of a machine itself. As mentioned, the “Flex Tech Space” creates connections between students, teachers, and industry. This energy activates a circulation system that moves students and teachers through social linkages to a visible education environment where learning is transformed into production. The concept manifests itself at the detail level where the masonry design in the courtyard is inspired by the geometry of a diesel chain that parallels student movement.

BUILDING AS TEACHING TOOL

The exposed building systems not only provide a visible teaching tool for Tech students, but also allow the future relocation of infrastructure to accommodate a changing or new program.

LANDSCAPE

Wyoming is beautiful, but also notorious for its wind and climate. Wind modeling was used to predict how snow drifting would affect the exterior courtyard and outdoor environment. The findings informed the placement of walks, storm drainage, and building entries to make the courtyard usable and comfortable, year-round.

ULTIMATE FLEXIBILITY

Accommodating change over time was a design solution and key sustainable strategy for Flex Tech. A modular approach to the structural system and exterior cladding will make strategies for expansion easier. Tilt-up concrete panels can be removed for future growth. Lightweight, recyclable metal cladding used in modular lengths consistent with the building structural grid module were chosen for ease of disassembly and reuse as the building changes in the future.

In addition to the “Flex Tech Space,” each lab and classroom were thoughtfully designed for interchangeability and future program needs. Classrooms have moveable furniture and can be configured as a drafting studio one day, and into a lecture style learning environment or conference room the next. While the welding program does not require the through movement of semi-trucks, the space could be converted in the future to house an additional automotive program or another requiring large bays and overhead space.

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