If you want to teach someone, total immersion in a lab is often better than lectures in the classroom, and the LEED Gold Civil Engineering Building at the University of Minnesota Duluth campus is the very embodiment of this idea. It gave the team at Chicago-based Ross Barney Architects many opportunities to design teaching moments into the 35,300-square-foot building, allowing it to serve as a living laboratory for students.
Steel members and mechanical systems are left exposed throughout. The structural and hydraulics labs—which are enclosed in glass so that students can observe experiments even when not in class—are more than 30 feet high, and equipped with gantry cranes. These rooms use thermal-displacement ventilation, so little of the volume of the room is actively conditioned.
“It’s a very bold project for what is a very simple building,” juror Joe Valerio said, “and a lot of engineering schools are building buildings like this.”
Sustainability has also become a core part of the curriculum, and there is much here for the budding engineer to observe. For example, the building’s oversized scuppers are made from cypress recycled from pickle vats. These are not just for show. After a rain, water pours from them into Cor-Ten steel drums. The water is filtered through taconite, a local stone used in iron-ore production, and stored for use as graywater.