University's new Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce
(DEC) functions as a shared resource to bring together three
different disciplines working on real-world projects. "The program
is set up so that the disciplines collaborate around projects that
take students through the full process of bringing a product to
market, from ideation to conception, production and distribution,"
explains Jay Verspyck, AIA, LEED AP, project designer with
Boston-based Shepley Bulfinch, the project architect.
Designed to showcase the school's integrated learning approach,
flexibility is key to the $20 million, 38,500-square-foot DEC. Its
core space is a design studio supported by classrooms, seminars,
student study and workshops, all of which can be easily
reconfigured with moveable partitions. "These spaces are organized
in clusters to create a flexible and dynamic learning environment
that students and teachers can flow easily between," says Verspyck.
"All spaces are designed to allow for different furniture
configurations, from structured lecture style to small informal
As a shared campus resource, the building is designed to feel
very open and accessible at ground level and more protected and
less public the higher up you go. A large two-story Forum space is
the most public and transparent space, designed to absorb the
topography of the site, engage with campus movement around and
through the building, and offer panoramic views of the campus.
"Very important to creating an environment conducive to
collaboration is providing plentiful amounts of informal space for
impromptu conversations," explains Verspyck. "We have provided such
spaces throughout the building at places of confluence such as
outside the classroom, along circulation paths, in stairways, at
building entrances, where chance encounters are most likely to
Tasked with integrating sustainable strategies in the building
while physically manifesting the school's commitment to
sustainability in its design, Shepley Bulfinch designed a
perforated metal solar screen that wraps the building, creating its
signature form while reducing solar heat gain and providing maximum
views for occupants.
Perforated by Accurate Perforating, Chicago, the metal shell
arches effortlessly around the building. The curved metal panels
resemble watermill wheels and are symbolic of the progressive
movement of the school's approach to learning, and the proud
history of the city's water sanitation initiative.
The metal screen is both symbolic and functional."On a symbolic
level, the building serves as an 'incubator,' and the metal screen
that wraps the building can be likened to a cocoon and just as a
cocoon is a mesh-like casing that protects the metamorphic process
of butterflies, so too does the wrapping metal screen harbor the
process of creation, where germinating ideas are transformed into
physical realities," Verspyck says. "We nicknamed the metal screen
'the veil,' because of the way it is designed to both conceal and
reveal visibility into the building."
"On a functional level, the screen serves as a climate
modifier," Verspyck continues. "Because the long orientations of
the building face east and west, it is subject to considerable
exposure to sun and heat gain. The screen is engineered to mitigate
the effects of solar heat gain and sunlight into the interior
spaces, and thereby represents a highly visible sustainable design
While consulting with the structural engineering firmRice
Engineering, Luxemburg, Wis., Accurate quoted the project with key
improvements to the originally specified material thickness,
changing it from 0.05- to 0.08-inch-thick aluminum, and the depth
of the corrugated profile from 3 to 5 inches. By doing this, they
were able to avoid complications that could have compromised the
arches' structural integrity.
The metal shell is made up of 300 panels of anodized aluminum in
10 different lengths and configurations, with some reaching up to
20 feet in length; along with custom V-Beam corrugations, 5 inches
deep; 3/8-inch by 9/16-inch perforation in the metal, with 40
percent open areas and a class 1 clear anodizing finish.
Metal bracing sets the perforated screen apart from the DEC,
allowing air movement between the two to further cool the building.
Accurate Perforating had to create a primary steel structure to
hold up the building along with a secondary structure of precast
that spans from column to column acting as both skin and structure.
Galvanized steel spider struts were anchored to the skin to create
an armature for the perforated metal screen.
"We had 9-foot 4-inch spacing set up for the screen's galvanized
steel ribs," explains Geoffrey Barter, AIA, project architect and
construction administration architect, Shepley Bulfinch. "This
created a span for the aluminum perforation that was wider than
standard panel sizes, predicating the need to customize perforated
panels to span the distance."
As an interior expression of the exterior screen, Accurate
Perforating also designed a lighter gauge perforated aluminum
acoustical suspended ceiling for the forum. "The ceiling is a
complex custom system that [Shepley Bulfinch] designed," adds
Barter. "Suspended from a composite concrete deck, it has a blanket
of acoustical insulation above it. The panel is curved and faceted
along the radius to mimic the underside of the exterior screen, and
its joints are centered on the exterior mullion."
Designed for LEED Silver certification, the DEC's green roof
reduces stormwater run-off by approximately 50 percent annually by
absorbing rainfall and slowing the rate of run-off, decreasing
stress on the sewer system. The roof also features a solar thermal
heating system from Evosolar, a division of Jomar
International, Warren, Mich., that provides renewable energy
for the center's domestic hot water, reducing the water heating
load by approximately 35 percent during the spring and fall.
Energy-efficient windows reflect heat in the summer and retain
warmth in the winter to save on heating and cooling costs. Rooms
feature daylight and motion sensors, and the building also has
low-flow plumbing fixtures, such as dual-flush toilets, that reduce
water use by 32 percent.
Alternative transportation is encouraged, with a campus shuttle
and public bus stop located near the DEC. Additionally, bike racks
are situated next to the center and throughout campus, with showers
for cyclists available nearby.
During construction, 232 tons, or more than 84 percent of the
construction waste, was diverted from landfills through
Verspyck notes that one of the fascinating aspects about the
process of conceiving this building was that the design evolved
together with the development of the academic program that it
houses. "This was done through a highly interactive process with
faculty and staff, where design ideas informed the program
development and vice versa," he says. "The building is intended to
be a flexible beta testing ground for pedagogical experimentation.
We hope to learn more from it as the program evolves."
Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce,
Philadelphia University, Philadelphia
Completed: December 2012
General contractor: Intech
Construction Inc., Philadelphia
Civil engineer: Boles, Smyth
Associates Inc., Philadelphia
Structural engineer: Rice
Engineering, Luxemburg, Wis.
Installer: M. Cohen and
Sons, Broomall, Pa.
Glazing: Kawneer Co. Inc., Norcross, Ga., www.kawneer.com
Perforated screen: Accurate Perforating,
Rooftop solar thermal collector: Evosolar, a
division of Jomar International, Warren, Mich., www.evosolar.com
Middle Photo: Anton Grassl/Esto
Bottom Photo: Halkin Architectural