In northern San Diego County, Calif., ocean breezes work their way up through the valley to Palomar College in San Marcos. Panoramic views to the coastal mountain range, ample sunshine, and moderate weather conditions justifiably beckon students outdoors. When LPA set out to create Palomar’s new Multidisciplinary Building (MD Building), principal Glenn Carels, AIA, was determined to have nature play a prominent role.
"I was drawn to create something compelling using the gifts of the site," Carels recalls. "Sustainable design begins the moment pen touches paper, and I wanted to bring nature right into the middle of the project. The design invites students in and inspires them to explore the building."
Situated adjacent to two major pedestrian crossroads, the 110,000-square-foot MD Building is at the epicenter of campus activity. Previously, the site contained three long single-story buildings from the 1970s that were not feasible for retrofit to current standards. The existing buildings were demolished, and their concrete slabs and foundations were repurposed as fill for a new, $35 million structure that consolidates a range of educational departments that had spread across the campus over time.
Classrooms, laboratories, a lecture auditorium, faculty offices, multiple study areas, and support spaces fill the three-story facility, and a central interior courtyard opens the MD Building to the environment.
Carels lined the building perimeter with classroom spaces in a single loaded corridor, and created visual and physical connections to nature. Bound by windows on two sides, many of the classrooms have the potential for distraction, but state-of-the-art audiovisual technology and strong accent wall colors help instructors keep students’ focus at the front of the class. To prevent glare, windows were equipped with high-performance low-E glass and each classroom is outfitted with operable interior shades.