Text description provided by the architects. Located at the entrance of Wake Technical Community College in a natural setting, the Regional Plant Teaching Facility creates a gateway to the campus and acts as a symbol of the merging of technology, education, and sustainability. While the building’s program is comprised of spaces to house heating and cooling equipment, it is also an educational facility for teaching students and the public about energy efficient building systems. A simple rectilinear glass and steel box with a perforated metal screen layer was designed to house, screen, and display the technology and to create a unique educational space for the college.
The teaching facility is the marriage of the utilitarian and educational components of a campus and provides interaction between students, faculty, and the facilities staff who run and operate the campus buildings. The project showcases the artistry of the utilitarian and creates “a museum for mechanical equipment” where the equipment is on display as artifacts both to the students and to the public.
The building is a long rectilinear glass box where the main teaching classroom floats above the forest floor at the north end cantilevering twenty feet into a grove of trees facing the main street. An exterior elevated covered public walkway runs the entire length of the building that defines the promenade and educational public tour to view the HVAC equipment. At the entrance to the building, a larger front porch area for gathering is demarcated by a masonry wall and a grand stair which provides an entrance to visitors arriving from the east.
The sustainable features of the building systems and landscape act as a living classroom to teach the public about building technology and sustainable design. The transparent glass and steel structure that houses the systems was composed using a 4′-0″ module which was based on the most efficient space to house a boiler and chiller. The module created an underlying geometric order for laying out the structural system, all HVAC equipment, and the metal screen. The transparency of the building systems was achieved using a structural steel frame with long span king post steel trusses. The trusses cantilever to support a secondary galvanized steel channel frame for supporting a perforated stainless steel corrugated screen. This screen is composed of openings that highlight the entrances and equipment inside.