Diamond Schmitt Architects just completed the new Student Centre at the New Mexico Highlands University. The three-story building provides much needed dedicated space for students and creates a central meeting spot to connect the campus and the rest of the community of Las Vegas, New Mexico. Aiming for LEED Gold certification, the project features a highly innovative and energy efficient design. Most notably is the motorized sun tracking louver system on the south side to shade the interior but maximize daylight. This system is thought to be one of the first of its kind in North America.
Work began on the new Student Centre in 2010 and it was just recently completed this summer under the guidance of Diamond Schmitt Architects and aided by Studio Southwest Architects. Located at an important intersection on the edge of campus, the NMHU Student Centre bridges the gap between the town and the rest of the school. Inside, there is a mix of programatic, study and meeting areas for the students and includes a versatile ballroom/conference facility, theatre, bookstore, café, post office and cafeteria that opens onto a sheltered courtyard. The upper floors provide space for a computer lab, student offices, meeting rooms, dining rooms and a dramatic student governance chamber. A bridge on the second floor connects directly to the neighboring library.
The building was designed to respond to the desert climate the southwest, which includes hot summers, monsoons, cooler nights and even cold winters. Passive design and innovative technologies were utilized to reduce energy use and maximize on the free energy potential of the sun. Overhanging roofs provide on the third floor protect a balcony and the interior from solar heat gain. The lower floors accept plenty of daylighting, but are protected by a motorized louver system on the south facade. This one-of-a-kind system tracks the sun throughout the day to maximize light and minimize heat gain. The louvers are held two feet off the main façade allowing sun shading to the grade levels without compromising transparency and view and the system drastically reduces mechanical loads”, said Martin Davidson, Principal at Diamond Schmitt Architects. In addition to the louvers, the Student Centre also makes use of green roofs and a geothermal well field to help its mechanical energy system.
Images ©Robert Reck