Brock Environmental Center Classroom Addition

The Brock Environmental Center is one of the most sustainable buildings in the world, having met the strict requirements of the Living Building Challenge and LEED Platinum certification. In fact, the BEC transcends LEED, achieving zero-net-CO2 emissions and zero waste leaving the site. With its solar panels and wind turbines, the BEC produces nearly twice as much energy as it uses.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) approached the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) several years ago about hosting an innovative new concept at the existing BEC on the banks of the Lynnhaven River where it joins the Chesapeake Bay: a “Sustainable Classroom.”  Thanks to a generous donation from Macon and Joan Brock, the new classroom would be home for VBCPS’s Environmental Studies Program, provide additional meeting/event space for CBF, and create a model learning space for outdoor field education and partnership across the country.

The design team was tasked with complementing the existing BEC design in appearance, performance, and systems. To provide information and gain input on the classroom design, the architect and CBF hosted several community meetings and a charrette with high-school and university students on site at the start of the project. Their ideas and goals for the project guided every step.

A primary driver in the overall building design was the idea of the building as a bare-bones field research station. That manifested itself as having a robust indoor-outdoor connection that allowed the usable square footage to expand and contract based on the activities of the day. In coastal Virginia, a serious commitment to indoor-outdoor space means being comfortable with humidity. The interior of the building, and all of its materials, are dimensionally stable as they breathe through a range of temperature and humidity conditions.

The secondary driving force behind decisions was making the high-performance building technology accessible to average homeowners. The original building used high-tech strategies to become one of the first Net Zero buildings in the world with the intent of showing visitors that it could be done, but a common response turned out to be “but I can’t do that in my own home.” With the classroom, we very intentionally focused on a high-performance building envelope and reasonably efficient consumer-grade building systems supported by a simple photo-voltaic solar array.

The classroom was certified LEED Platinum in May 2022, and the complete BEC with the addition maintains Net Zero status. The $2.4 million classroom building contains the classroom, an office, two restrooms with composting toilets, a learning mezzanine, extensive exterior decking for outdoor education, and operable walls and windows for ventilation and daylighting. The addition is a separate building connected to the original BEC building with decking that runs along the southern-facing portion and an open-air breezeway.

The classroom itself is a learning tool for sustainable architecture and design. With the intention of being relevant to the average home-builder, the remainder of the classroom is built largely with the same dimensional lumber framing as a typical single-family home. The only high-performance oddities in the walls are mineral wool insulation and a fluid-applied air barrier. The mineral wool tolerates repeated humidity swings better than typical fiberglass batt insulation. A fluid-applied air barrier ensures better coverage and fewer seams than a typical house wrap. The roof is built with structural insulated panels (SIPs). This system allows for increased thermal value in the insulation over longer spans with fewer joints. The envelope system above the SIPs is a standard standing seam metal with high-temperature self-adhering underlayment. The exterior finish is predominantly the same stained cypress shiplap used on the original building. Metal panels, where used, are galvanized single-skin panels. All wood was responsibly harvested in compliance with the Forestry Stewardship Council’s requirements.

Salvaged materials took a unique approach. A social media campaign material came up empty, so it was time to seek other avenues. An internal window from the office to the classroom consists of a porthole from a 1950s-era buoy tender given to one of CBF’s directors nearly thirty years ago by his grandfather, a boat builder in Maryland.  The mezzanine floor is a salvaged vintage public school gym floor located via Craigslist. The stainless steel sink on the deck was incorrectly fabricated for a school project years ago and had sat in the general contractor’s warehouse collecting dust.

The classroom features a living wall that was a collaborative design effort between CBF, the architect, and a specialty living-wall designer. The “BioWall” is a living image of the Chesapeake Bay watershed—the bay, a bright and shining steel map; the landmass a variety of foliage that naturally filter air, remove pollutants, and reduce energy demand.

The new classroom addition needed to be a seamless extension of the original building while making a slightly modified statement: a new twist on the original recipe! The classroom needed to meet the same stringent environmental goals using similar systems and being compatibly integrated into the site. But the classroom’s outreach mission is a little different: the goal was to be accessible and connected to nature and the community in a more direct way. It is intended to serve as a field research station for students during the day then host guest lecturers or community meetings in the evening—all while sipping electricity, requiring minimal upkeep, and allowing for 100+ years of sea level rise.

USGBC Virginia 2022 Community Leaders Climate Champion Award

HRACRE (Hampton Roads Association for Commercial Real Estate) 2022 Design Award of Excellence, Best Sustainable Project

Richard A. Tucker Memorial Library

New 11,500-square-foot library for the City of Norfolk. The new library will include administrative offices; lobby; adult, young adult, and children’s collections; computer lab; meeting rooms; program room; display areas; study areas; lounge; additional support spaces; and an outdoor nature classroom.

Brickell Medical Sciences Library | EVMS

The Brickell Medical Sciences Library houses Eastern Virginia Medical School’s resource collections, two classrooms, a large video-conferencing room, a history-of-medicine area, and a blend of individual- and group-study areas. The library’s impressive rotunda entrance is shared with an older medical school building, Lewis Hall, which adjoins the library. The building is a stone-clad, concrete-frame structure built on a concrete-pile foundation. It was built with connections and renovations to the existing Lewis Hall academic building during full operation of the medical school. The library’s rotunda serves as the public “face” of EVMS to visitors, students, and staff of the university.

Dragas Hall | Old Dominion University

Prior to the renovation and addition, the 1959 rectangular building had glass curtain walls surrounded by a screen of heavy, ceramic blocks. In its half-century of heavy use, it had undergone multiple interior renovations in which open spaces were subdivided into smaller offices, glass walls blocked, and the deteriorating roof line braced. The building also needed to provide a front-door appearance to those visiting the campus, but before renovation the building presented an impenetrable, fortress-like appearance.

The challenges in renovating Dragas Hall included keeping a portion of the first floor intact and occupied while the second floor was demolished and the entire exterior skin replaced. The existing plaza was enclosed, making the new lobby twice its original size. Granite caps from planters that were outside the old Hughes Hall were re-used in the new plaza as caps for walls and in the exterior stair treads. The unique, existing terrazzo in the interior was matched and the ODU logo was added to the lobby floor.

The renovations provided enhancements to comply with ADA guidelines. The work replaced building systems, upgraded the elevator, restored the restrooms, reconfigured the second-floor interior spaces to accommodate academic program needs, added skylights on the second floor, and created a grand, light-filled entrance. Wood paneling and built-in wood seating added warmth.

The majority of the exterior changes reflect the University’s wish to have the building match the surrounding campus architecture. The existing plaza was enclosed, making the new lobby twice its original size. The ceramic-block screen and storefronts that encased the building were replaced with brick, cast stone, and a new curtain wall facade. Architecturally, the palette of materials is derived from the neighboring buildings. The brick matches the architectural vocabulary of the Kaufman Mall corridor of the campus.

Winner of a 2011 HRACRE (Hampton Roads Association for Commercial Real Estate) Design Award – Best Renovation

Reed-Gumenick Library | Collegiate School

Renovations and additions to an existing one-story library and media  center at the Collegiate Middle School. Interior functions include a library, media center, collaborative work space for the students, a makerspace design and exploration area for hands-on creativity, two new classrooms, and staff support space. The Head of School coined the new flexible classrooms “the most sought-after spaces on campus.”

Governor’s School for the Arts

This $6.8 million project began in 2007 as a comprehensive preplanning study. Renovation to the 1915 building began in 2012 and included exterior repairs and complete interior renovations, including demolition and abatement of hazardous materials, configuration of spaces, preservation of historic material on the condemned 5th and 6th floors, structural repairs, and new and/or modified plumbing, mechanical, electrical, and fire-protection systems.

The 53,000 SF in spaces include dance studios; classrooms; computer lab; theatre (black box); offices, rehearsal spaces; wood shop; painting, printmaking, and sculpture studios; and a small library. Federal and state historic tax credits effectively reduced the final project cost by approximately 38 percent. Completed in 2014.

Winner, HRACRE (Hampton Roads Associate for Commercial Real Estate) Award, Best Renovation/Historic Rehabilitation, 2014.

American Cancer Society Building

This 13,000 SF building was originally designed and constructed as the regional headquarters for the American Cancer Society and is a brick, glass, and metal building with offices, training facilities, a commercial kitchen, reception area, and meeting spaces. Its focal point is an open, contemporary atrium lobby wrapped in glass. The purpose of this modest space is to capture views of the densely wooded site and provide a calm, light-filled waiting area for volunteers, patients, and guests. The atrium connects a central, large open office space to waiting, conference rooms, a library, material storage, and the reception desk.

Powhatan County Library

The 15,500-square-foot Powhatan County Public Library, located west of Richmond, is a 60,000-volume library and public-meeting facility completed in 2001 (photos: 2011). The new library is situated on a fifty-acre wooded site overlooking a small creek. The library design takes advantage of the outstanding landscape by “bringing the outside in.” It utilizes wood trusses, a stone fireplace, and filtered light to illuminate the major stack and reading areas of the library. The 80-foot clear-span trusses allow for unlimited flexibility and total reorganization of the space in the future. The exterior is composed of a stacked-stone foundation, vertical wood siding and insulated glass.