Health and Human Sciences Building wins architecture awards

Western Carolina University’s state-of-the-art Health and Human Sciences Building is a four-story, 160,000-square-foot structure that features customized classrooms and seminar rooms, and 21 specialized labs.

Western Carolina University’s state-of-the-art Health and Human Sciences Building is a four-story, 160,000-square-foot structure that features customized classrooms and seminar rooms, and 21 specialized labs.

Western Carolina University’s state-of-the-art Health and Human Sciences Building, which opened in fall 2012, has won two awards for its architectural design.

Architects with the architectural firm of PBC+L (now Clark Nexsen) accepted a Design Merit Award for their work on the building from the North Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The firm also has been named recipient of one of three Architecture Honor Awards from the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects.

WCU’s Health and Human Sciences Building offers a “successful contrast to the natural setting out of which it grows” and “carefully pushes in the hillside contours, preserving a sensitive environment and gracefully stepping down the site,” according to a written statement from judges in the Virginia competition.

The first structure to be constructed on WCU’s West Campus, the four-story, 160,000-square-foot building features customized classrooms and seminar rooms, and 21 specialized labs that serve more than 1,200 undergraduate students and 300 graduate students in diverse high-demand, health-related programs.

In addition, the building was designed to support the Millennial Initiative, which promotes university collaboration with private industry and government partners to enhance hands-on student learning and collaborative, interdisciplinary research. The facility brings under one roof students and faculty from disciplines including nursing, physical therapy, communication sciences and disorders, social work, athletic training, emergency medical care, environmental health, nutrition and dietetics, and recreational therapy.

“As a facility, it provides well-designed space in a very hospitable environment to allow this interaction to take place,” said Galen May, university architect. “The size also allows for programs to grow.”

The building was designed to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly and has features such as reflective surfaces on the roof and a rooftop garden to keep heat absorption at bay. The building’s footprint essentially nestles it into the mountainside in a way that minimizes environmental impact. Details such as the orientation of windows and the sun screens on the building’s exterior maximize natural daylight to reduce energy needs for lighting and are positioned to reduce the need for heating and air conditioning. The architects are currently seeking LEED certification, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, for the building from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Clark Nexsen’s Chad Roberson, principal architect, and Sara Melanson, project architect, accepted the North Carolina award on behalf of the firm.

“The Health and Human Sciences Building was one of the most satisfying projects I have ever been part of,” said Roberson. “Working together with Western to create something that didn’t exist anywhere else was a fantastic experience.”

For more information, contact the College of Health and Human Sciences at 828-227-7271.