Architectural and design firm MHTN has a record of introducing sustainably-minded solutions that embrace the function of the building while reducing its environmental impact. Well-established as a brand experienced in higher education student life design, MHTN is currently developing eco-friendly buildings on two Utah campuses.

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A school building with the background of a mountain range

The first project is the University of Utah Carolyn and Kem Gardner Commons. The gathering and study space is the first building at the University of Utah to use ground source wells as its heating and cooling energy source. The system provides nearly all of the heating and the majority of the cooling needs, saving an estimated $70,000 in annual energy savings and removing 378 metric tons of CO2 Eq from campus.

Related: Echo by UNStudio generates more energy than it uses

An interior classroom facing a monitor screen and wall of windows on one side

Gardner Commons features 35 classrooms, faculty offices, work spaces and research areas. It’s the University of Utah’s largest undergraduate academic building.

MHTN Architects explains, “As a central hub for daily undergraduate life, the Commons is the home for College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 15 Departments and Institutes (including the Hinckley Institute of Politics), as well as a consolidated center for Student Advising, University Welcome Center and 150-seat Café/Study zone with four food venues and integrated study lounge seating on the main level.”

The facility was designed to meet the needs of the student community, including spaces to work, relax and build relationships with each other and the faculty. The environment does more than inspire interaction with other humans, but also with nature. Natural light is directed down the walls to illuminate the central walkways on the top levels of the building for sun exposure whilst traveling between classes. 

A low school building in a desert landscape

The second project is at the Utah State University Moab Academic Building. Complementing Utah State University’s (USU) commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, the building takes advantage of passive design strategies throughout. The building was strategically placed for minimal site impact and optimal natural light absorption. It’s energy efficient through highly effective insulation and high-performance glazing. The design also incorporates large roof overhangs to provide shade.

An empty parking lot with solar panels

In an effort to achieve LEED certification, the team relied heavily on solar panels to fulfill energy requirements. The building also incorporates water conservation systems. Each eco-minded effort in the academic building contributes to the overall goals to stand as an example of sustainable architecture and be a focus of study for ongoing sustainability and resiliency classes.

An interior lobby area with circular lights hanging from the ceiling

The design firm said, “This 22,000 SF educational facility will contain classrooms, labs, shops, administration/faculty offices and student collaboration spaces. Programmed spaces will include general education programs, nursing, CTE (career and technical education), 4H programs for children and adults and local community functions. A large floating roof creates a series of outdoor rooms that celebrate place and a sense of campus within one building.”

+ MHTN Architects

Images via MHTN Architects