The newest academic building at George Washington University has health as a driving factor in its design. This is fitting, as the building houses the University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. The project, designed by Payette Architects and Ayers Saint Gross Architects, employs a number of strategies that help make the building a healthier and more enjoyable place to learn and work.
I took a tour of the building last week to learn more about these strategies. Click through the image gallery to the right to see more photos of the building.
Encouraging Physical Activity and Movement
Rather than being tucked into a corner, the building’s staircases are centrally located in the glass-enclosed skylit atrium: the open stairs connect to each floor of the seven-story building. In addition, doors to the fire stairs are held open with electromagnets. Elevators are just out of view of the entrance, with doors that close slowly to discourage their use. Each faculty office and some classrooms have standing desks—that can be easily adjusted for standing or sitting—which have been shown to improve posture and general comfort. A secure bike rack is located inside the building to encourage faculty, staff, and students to bike to work and class. The building also includes a prayer and meditation room and workout spaces for yoga and Zumba classes.
Clean Indoor Air
The use of building materials and furnishings with fewer toxins help prevent health concerns from chemical off-gassing. The building’s mechanical system also includes a robust filtering component to reduce allergens and mold, and a number of plants in the lobby help filter the air and provide exposure to nature.
Vending machines are stocked with healthier choices—and absolutely no soda! The building has no cafeteria, but every floor has a kitchen which encourages the faculty, staff, and students to store and prepare food they bring from home.
Access to Sunlight and Nature
The building features large windows that let in abundant natural light. The building also has a green roof and rainwater collection system that holds 90,000 gallons of water. Many other features also promote environmental sustainability: the university is targeting a LEED Platinum certification with this building.
The strategies incorporated into this project all have connections to improving the health and wellness of the students, faculty, and staff of the School of Public Health.
Thank you to Ted Eytan from Kaiser Permenante for arranging the visit, and to Nancy Giammatteo, director of facilities planning and design review, and Leonard Friedman, professor and director at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, for giving us a fantastic tour of the new building.
For more information about the project:
From George Washington University: http://publichealth.gwu.edu/facilities/950-new-hampshire-avenue
From Payette Architects: http://www.payette.com/post/2219674-george-washington-university-celebrates-new-building