Sneak Peek: A Net-Zero-ready Gym and Student Union in Texas

An inclusive, 60,000-square-foot athletic center and student union for St. Andrew’s Episcopal School brings to life the Austin, Texas, school’s vision of “lifetime physical fitness and well-being” for every student. Six multi-sport courts and a 4,000-square-foot athletic performance center support an “anyone can play” philosophy. The inclusivity extends to student artists and performers, with exhibition areas, musical theater and dance studios, and a café as part of the student union. An extroverted public entry, movable walls, flexible lighting and a landscaped and electrified plaza create event-friendly environments for alumni and community members.

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The net-zero-ready facility uses passive and active high-performance design strategies to minimize baseline energy use and reduce eventual photovoltaic (PV) system costs. Unusual for a school, the design uses a mini water-cooled central plant to take advantage of seasonal irregularities in occupancy, throttling up and down depending on need and greatly reducing energy use. The system also improves indoor air quality, cycling air through high-humidity spaces such as locker and weight rooms and reducing the potential spread of airborne pathogens. With the building’s primarily western-facing orientation largely set by the constraints of the site, designers closely studied the window-to-wall ratios to maximize daylight without inducing glare or heat gain. This improves occupant comfort while reducing the density of electrical lighting to less than .5 watts/square foot.