when New York’s westchester Community College (wCC) unveiled plans for the college’s Gateway Center, the goal was to create a sustainable building that would serve
as a crossroads for the local business and education communities. with an emphasis
on workforce and English language education, the center would be a beacon of opportunity for community members committed to improving their lives.
Since it opened in 2010, the 70,000-square-foot, Gold LEEd-certified structure,
which features sustainable design technology and open collaborative learning spaces,
has become a destination for students and community members alike.
“we conceptualized a building that would respond to our need for more classroom
and student space, but also focus very deliberately on serving the needs of the immigrant population and the workforce,” says
Teresita wisell, associate dean for the center.
Administrators say the environmentally
friendly building has helped the college
maximize its return on investment while
providing more options for teaching and
Used largely as a classroom and faculty
office building during the week, the Gateway
Center has the potential to double on the
weekends and after hours as a conference
center where local business leaders and
other stakeholders can gather to share ideas
and interact with students.
“There are any number of different opportunities to live and learn in the building,
whether it’s on a bench in the hallway, outside
on a sort of patio café where students can eat their lunch seven months out of the
year, or in common spaces on the third floor,” explains wisell.
Susan Rodriguez, design partner with New York-based Ennead Architects and lead
designer on the Gateway Center project, says the decision to erect a sustainable building on campus is a complex process anchored in need.
Though sustainable design features, such as energy-efficient day-lit buildings and
water-based air-cooling systems, are sometimes seen as a way to lower utility bills, it’s
important to remember that adding square footage to your existing campus footprint will
increase operating costs. Rather than focus on potential savings first, Rodriguez says
wCC concentrated on defining program objectives and making the best use of space.
Gateway Center, Westchester Community
College, Valhalla, N. Y.
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PhOTO ©ESTO PhOTOGRAPhICS; ARChITECT: ENNEAd ARChITECTS
during the design process, as costs were evaluated, the project was scaled back from
original projections of 90,000 square feet to 70,000 square feet. The design team used
the opportunity to re-examine the way the spaces were programmed. The inclusion
of seating within slightly wider corridors turned traditional hallways into collaborative
meeting spaces. An open floor plan that bridged the use of indoor and outdoor space
created an environment where learning and collaboration could happen anywhere on
the property. Strategic day lighting gave instructors plenty of options for where to find
those teachable moments.
“Not everything has to have four walls around it and not every office has to be an
enclosed office,” says Rodriguez. “In carefully evaluating the various aspects of the
program, we were able to create a building that responded more closely to the needs
of the college and its sustainability objectives.”
wisell agrees. “Students want to learn in this building and they want to stay in this
building,” she says.
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