Senior-friendly green project takes top prize in MBI’s student design contest

May 11, 2009 |

Exterior features of Tyler Stanley's award-winning design concept include a vegetated roof supported by salvaged glulam beams with water collection, low-e, double-pane windows, natural wood and stone exterior, and recycled steel wall framing.  


Tasked with designing a high-performance, modular community center for seniors, 12 architecture students recently competed in the Modular Building Institute’s fourth annual student green building design competition. The competition included a real-world client, Piedmont Housing Alliance, which is currently planning a replacement community center at its low-income senior housing development in Crozet, Va.

Tyler Stanley, a senior at Ball State University’s School of Architecture, was awarded the top prize (and a $2,500 scholarship) for his 4,900-sf design scheme incorporating a sloped vegetated roof, salvaged materials, and LED lighting. Stanley’s plan calls for the use of local and recycled materials throughout the facility, including recycled steel for the module frames and columns and salvaged wood for the flooring in the common areas. The sloped green roof will be supported by glulam beams recycled from modular projects that are no longer in use.

Large double-pane, low-e windows along the front and sides of the structure will allow natural light to flood every corner of the interior, while light sensors will automatically adjust the electrical lighting based on daylight levels. Other green features include no-VOC paint and carpet, sound-absorbing gypsum, low-energy appliances, and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

Modular community center components
Dimensions (W x L x H): 70 X 70 X 16 feet
Floor insulation: R-11 fiberglass batt
Wall insulation: R-11 fiberglass batt
Ceiling insulation: R-19 fiberglass batt
Window/natural light: Large double-pane, low-e windows and a glass curtain wall maximize views and daylighting
Interior lighting: LED lighting is also used throughout the building to cut down on overall power consumption
Exterior door: Low-e glass doors
Heating system: Trane’s EarthWise HVAC and operable windows
Cooling system: Trane’s EarthWise HVAC and operable windows
Ceilings and walls: Sound-absorbing gypsum
Floors: Wood floors salvaged from a local gym are set on top of cork board
Exterior walls: Natural wood, painted steel, tan stone, and tinted glass compliment existing buildings
Wall framing: Recycled steel
Roof: Sloped green roof with vegetation and water collection
Foundation: Perimeter wall foundation with piers located at the matelines


Tyler Stanley's design strategy

Thermal Comfort Strategy

For this particular project, Trane’s EarthWise HVAC system has been chosen to meet the active ventilation needs. Due to its low emissions and high efficiency, it is perfectly suited for this application. To accompany the active ventilation, passive ventilation was added in to the design via operable windows located at opposing walls. This will allow for optimal ventilation and allow the amount of ventilation to be easily controlled. A large south-facing atrium also contributes to the overall thermal comfort of the building. During the winter months, the lower-angled sun will penetrate into the building through these large windows and warm the spaces naturally.

Indoor Air Quality Strategy
To optimize the quality of air in the indoor spaces, low to no emitting materials were used where ever possible. All of the paint for the walls, as well as the trim and ceiling, is to be no VOC. Wood floors heighten the air quality by not trapping dusts and allergens, in addition to using a low emitting finish. Tying back to thermal comfort, the HVAC system and the operable windows also play a large part in optimizing the indoor air quality.

Daylighting Strategy

Daylighting was taken very seriously throughout the design of this building. Large double-pane, low-E windows were used across the front, as well as the sides of the structure to allow a high amount of natural light to penetrate every corner of the interior. Adding to the daylighting is the double-pane, low-E glass curtain wall of the atrium. Floor to ceiling glass maximizes the views to the natural surroundings and will allocate to the exposure of natural sunlight from a controlled environment. Since not every day is sunny and bright, sensors are integrated throughout the building to adjust the interior lighting to complement the natural lighting. Light colors are also used in the interior to give the spaces a light and open feeling, making the most of the daylighting.

Acoustic Strategy
Acoustics play a large role in every building, especially one that will be occupied by 80+ people. Sound absorbing gypsum is used throughout the building to minimize sound pollution and echoing across the walls and ceiling areas. Insulating the interior walls also helps to control sound from bleeding into different rooms of the building. The wood floors are set on top of cork board, adding to the sound absorption of the building. Trane’s EarthWise system, along with a strategically designed duct system, provides an exceedingly quiet mechanical system that will be unheard by most occupants.

Energy Efficiency Strategy
Energy efficiency is the key to this building. At the heart of the strategy for this building is the HVAC system. Again, Trane’s system proves its importance by consuming an absolute minimum amount of power. LED lighting is also used throughout the building to cut down on overall power consumption. The kitchen is also dominated by low energy appliances, adding to the efficiency of the building. Local and recycled materials have been used abundantly in the design of this building. Recycled steel was used for the module frames as well as the steel columns supporting the roof. The wood floor that covers most of the common area is salvaged and refinished from a local gym that was being deconstructed. Supporting the sloped green roof is a series of glu-lam beams salvaged from other modular projects that are no longer in use. The rest of the materials that are not recycled are all from local vendors, cutting down on the energy consumption used through transport.

Architectural Excellence

Complimentary materials are the basis for the aesthetics of this building. Existing site buildings are all tan in color, leading to the decision for the use of tan stone on the façade of this building. Natural wood grain, painted steel, tan stone block, and tinted glass all combine together to make an aesthetically unique structure, while still respecting the existing buildings. The full height windows of the atrium immediately grab the attention of the viewer and then slowly lead the eye across to the main entrance. Resting on top of the recycled glu-lam beams is the most aesthetically interesting piece of the building. A site added sloped green roof transitions between the natural surrounding site, and the built environment of the structure.

Economic Practicality

Obviously constructing a “Green” building is going to be accompanied with higher costs than conventional modular construction. To offset that, one must look into the future of the building and how much of that cost will be offset over the lifetime use of the building. Since this will be a permanent structure on the site, the lower life cycle costs for operation will pay off greatly in the long run. Energy efficient appliances, low-water use fixtures, and a high performance building envelope all combine to make this building extremely practical over the lifetime of the structure.


Most roofs play one role, shielding occupants from environmental elements. This roof plays several parts in the building performance. It is a green roof using particular plant species to operate. The roof slope causes rainwater to filter through vegetation and soil and drain to the building rear where it is collected for site irrigation and grey water uses. The roof also shades the true roofs of the modules, minimizing heat gain. Regarding site added features, the five modules will be shipped for site assembly using conventional transportation and close-up methods. A perimeter wall foundation with piers supports the modules. The factory built green roof is assembled from its five pieces and mounted on top of the building and attached to steel columns located in the end and side walls. Sheathing spanning the gap between the modules and the green roof is installed. A glass curtain wall is constructed in place and attached to the modules and roof. Finally, a stone veneer masks matelines.











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