Westminster’s spectacular 85,000-square-foot Armour Academic Center opened in September 2009 and includes a humanities wing, and a math and science wing, surrounding a centrally located glass atrium. The four-level, LEED gold certified building boasts small class sizes that encourage student interaction, state-of-the-art technology, abundant informal meeting spaces, and large windows that capture natural light and breathtaking views of the Farmington Valley.
The center’s major features include:
• the Offield Center for the Humanities, which houses classrooms and offices for the English, History and Language departments
• the Davis Center for Science and Mathematics, which houses classrooms, science labs and offices for the Science and Mathematics departments
• the three-story Armstrong Atrium, which provides an informal meeting space for students and faculty, and a place for the entire school community to gather for assemblies and receptions
• the two-story Cole Library with small study and tutoring rooms for group work and collaboration; the Lobdell Reading Room; and the Gund Reading Room, which also functions as a beautiful community meeting place
• the amphitheater-style 120-seat Sejong Lecture Hall for special presentations, class meetings, visiting lecturers and standardized testing
• the Class of 1957 Planetarium for astronomy instruction
• the Gitterman Family Student Lounge, which accommodates approximately 50 students in a diner-like setting, and a school store
• abundant lounge areas, including the Parents of the Class of 2009 Atrium Lounge on the third floor, which provide attractive areas for students and faculty to connect during the school day.
Two driving forces behind the design of the center were to keep class sizes small and to foster close student and teacher interaction. As a result, two-person tables, rather than desks, are used in all 36 classrooms since they offer maximum flexibility and can be easily configured for seminars, group work and testing.
Administrative offices on the first floor of the center include the Director of Studies, the Registrar, the Dean of Faculty and the Director of Multicultural Affairs. Each academic department also has its own office located adjacent to its classrooms.
Every classroom in the center offers state-of-the-art educational technology to enhance teaching and learning. New tools such as sophisticated interactive whiteboards, document cameras, multimedia players and advanced sound systems make it possible for Westminster teachers to bring global information into their classroom at the touch of a fingertip and to share and save work instantaneously.
While most students bring a laptop computer to school, desktop computers are available for individual work or group instruction in two computer labs, a first floor study hall and the Cole Library. The library also offers a classroom with a full audiovisual package and a cart of 15 laptop computers. And the multimedia, digital Language Studio, offers a language learning system with real-time audio and visual interaction capabilities.
Leading-Edge Green Design
The new center has been awarded LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute.
The LEED green building certification system is the preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. It provides independent, third-party verification that a building project meets the highest green building and performance measures.
The Armour Academic Center achieved gold certification for energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as for incorporating a variety of other sustainable strategies. It is one of the first facilities to use a geothermal heat exchange system on a large-scale basis.
The green design and construction features that positively impact the project itself and the broader community include:
• A geothermal heat exchange system with 72 wells that are 500 feet deep is estimated to save about $20,000 per year in fuel costs and to pay for itself within five years. The building is expected to exceed the latest energy codes on energy consumption by an estimated 33 percent.
• Ninety percent of the spaces occupied by students and teachers have direct views to the outdoors, an environmental improvement that has been shown to increase productivity.
• The ventilation system provides fresh air that exceeds code requirements and creates a healthier learning environment.
• High-efficiency mechanical systems, increased insulation, smart glazing and efficient lighting design will save about 37 percent in energy costs.
• Water-efficient plumbing fixtures will cut water usage by 40 percent compared to a conventional building and provide an annual savings of 155,000 gallons of water.
• The irrigation system will reduce water consumption by 50 percent and provide an annual savings of 1 million gallons of water.
In addition, the center has low gas-emitting paint, adhesives and carpets; building materials with a recycled content that averages 20 percent; built-in recycling bins; accommodations for bicycles; and preferred parking for fuel-efficient and car pool vehicles. Seventy-five percent of the waste generated by the project was recycled.
A Design that Fits Well with Campus Architecture
The Armour Academic Center is located adjacent to the Werner Centennial Center and forms a quad surrounding Commencement Lawn, with Andrews Memorial Chapel, Pratt House and Cushing Hall on the other three sides. The center’s design harks back to the proportions of the campus’s original building, Cushing Hall, integrates comfortably with other campus buildings and reinforces the school’s overarching core value of community.
Graham Gund, class of 1959, president of Gund Partnership, an award-winning architecture firm in Cambridge, Mass., and the firm’s managing principal, John Prokos, designed the center following extensive consultation with members of the Westminster community.