The new San Jacinto Classroom Building is a 122,000-sf mass timber structure on the Central Campus. The classroom building supports engineering, mathematics, College Preparatory, and early high school learning students. The new three-story building is constructed entirely out of mass timber, except for steel bracing used for lateral support, making it one of the first in the Greater Houston Area. It is also the nation's largest mass timber academic building on a college campus.
The new facility reused portions of the 1950's era classroom buildings it replaced, like the existing foundations, bas relief panel, and exterior marble. Graphic bronze plaques were placed on the site to honor the demolished buildings' history, and a new lobby connects the facility to the existing Davison building, creating a signature entrance.
Beyond the obvious sustainable features in utilizing mass timber for the structural frame, shafts, floors, and roof, the project also includes a powerful gray water collection system to tie into the college's central plant and offset make-up water requirements. Additionally, it contains 30,000 sf of roof-supported photovoltaics and electrochromic glazing to help control glare and heat gains. It also incorporates tubular daylighting to bring desirable natural daylight into the corridor and administration area at the building's core. The investment in these unique features will collectively make it the highest performing building in the district's 2-million square feet of existing facilities. Graphics and branding throughout the building put the sustainable features on display.
The new facility includes 55 instructional classrooms, a robotics lab, and a lecture hall with various academic support spaces for faculty. It consists of formal and informal student gathering spaces and a variety of traditionally under-utilized niches and corridor areas that students can use as impromptu study and hang out spaces instead of leaving campus. The building has a large event area for socially-distanced presentations and a dramatic two-story lobby wrapped in warm black spruce wood panels for college-wide events. The design of these community spaces emphasize the mass timber structure and put its beauty on display.
Click here to read the Texas Architect magazine article "Growing Architecture". Here, two Kirksey architects discuss their experiences working with mass timber on this project.