Doing More with Less: Structural Creativity Inside the Box

The Challenge:

The third in a cluster of four LPA-designed buildings for Palomar College in San Marcos, California, the Humanities Building faced challenges similar to an urban infill project. Designers had to fit an extensive program of language and liberal arts spaces into a narrow, three-story form on a sliver of land between the Multidisciplinary Instructional Building, Learning Resource Center, the campus loop road and the major campus promenade.

The Solution:

To optimize the interior square footage, LPA designers and structural engineers devised a bar-shaped building with 30-foot cantilevers to the east and west. Offices and classrooms are consolidated on the upper floors, served by a highly efficient double-loaded corridor. The design team collaborated closely to optimize the structural system, creating column lines that stack across all levels — a challenge given the different footprints and unique space programs on the lower and upper levels.

Unlike a more typical brace frame system, whose diagonal members can limit flexibility, a moment frame solution created open interior spans that can be reconfigured in the future. The building’s footprint was reduced by approximately 1,500 square feet by avoiding the 18-inch band at the perimeter commonly used in braced-frame buildings, reducing the need for obstructing braces and saving the cost of additional flooring, roofing and HVAC systems. Beams needed on the interior were also carefully aligned with walls of the double-loaded corridors, which are less likely to change than classrooms, further future-proofing the facility.

“The design gives space back to the educational program, instead of the hidden infrastructure of the building,” says Design Director Winston Bao. “The college will have the freedom to flex and find innovative ways to adapt the space.”

Doing More With Less 2

A series of case studies illustrating cost-effective, sustainable design solutions that save materials, energy and water.