Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center: Smart Design

In September of 2012, Berkshire inaugurated a new, state-of-the-art Math and Science center, located on the western side of Buck Valley. The new 48,000-square-foot building represents the School’s bold commitment to providing students and teachers with facilities that will allow them to pursue academic excellence and innovation at the highest level, and increases the curricular space by 129%.   From its inception, it was critically important that the building not only provide inspired spaces for learning, but also adhere to the School’s commitment to sustainability. The building was designed by Centerbrook Architects in close collaboration with VanZelm Engineering (MEP), Girard and Company (structural), Atelier Ten (Lighting, LEED, and environmental), Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (Civil), and Stephen Stimson Associates (landscape.) Fontaine Bros, Inc. was the General Contractor.

The Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center houses 15 student laboratories and classrooms, in addition to faculty and collaborative study spaces. The building is sited where historic Memorial Hall once stood, and through careful design consideration, the new space clearly echoes its predessesor. The location also connects the campus center in new ways to the mountain setting to the west. Classroom terraces on that side extend learning into the landscape. These include rain gardens that teach students about the role of plantings in storm water management and infiltration. Native plantings eliminate the need for supplemental irrigation. New views up into the mountain understory connect lessons inside with life outside.

The Design Team performed many climate, day-lighting, and energy systems studies which helped optimize the building design to reduce energy consumption. Energy modeling predicts that the building will reduce energy consumption by 58.7% compared to standard code compliant buildings using the following techniques:

  • The building’s tight building envelope provides high performance. It includes triple-pane glazing for the curtain wall system and high performance double-pane glazing for strategically placed windows. Two separate layers of wall insulation provide an insulation value of R-27; coupled with R-40 roof insulation, this will reduce energy use significantly in all seasons.
  • Each of the laboratories features a bay with a floor to ceiling curtain wall system to optimize solar gain in winter, daylight, and views to the exterior; these also aid science experiments as localized greenhouses. Many of the windows are operable for local control of ventilation and temperature.
  • Materials and finishes with low-VOC content reduce harmful chemicals or particulates within the building. All offices and core learning spaces are monitor equipped to ensure excellent air quality.
  • Many ceilings have open grids to allow transmission of thermal energy with the building’s structural mass while cotton bats and ceiling clouds ensure good acoustic performance.
  • Energy efficient lighting, daylight, and occupancy sensors help reduce electrical demand. Efficient motors, variable speed fan and pump drives, and natural ventilation when suitable further reduce energy demand. A heat recovery wheel increases and tempers incoming fresh air.
  • Potable water usage is reduced with low-flow water closets, urinals, and sinks. This should reduce consumption by an estimated 33% below EPA standards.

  • A clean-burning wood pellet biomass boiler generates hot water heat to minimize fuel oil use, thus further reducing the building’s carbon footprint.
    As part of Berkshire’s Green Campus Initiative, the School strives to diminish waste on campus. A construction waste management plan diverted 81% of waste from landfills and incinerators. A total of 35% of building materials include recycled content. Reclaimed wood boarding from Memorial Hall was refurbished as panels for the Lecture Hall and Entrance Vestibules. Twenty-eight percent of all materials used in the project originated within 500 miles to lower embedded energy. Project wood is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified, harvested from sustainably managed forests.

Click here to view a slideshow of signage about the building's sustainability initiatives.

Berkshire is proud of its efforts in sustainability and strives to maintain that commitment in all areas of campus, from the curriculum to its facilities. Along with the School's eight-acre solar field which supplies 45% of its energy needs and locks in energy rates for 15 years, the Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center is a prominent symbol of our commitment to environmental sustainability.

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