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The Pick of the Sustainable Crop
Through its annual awards program, AIA’s Committee on the Environment applauds well-designed, high-performance buildings that reflect diverse places and purposes
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By Nancy B. Solomon, AIA

 

Rinker Hall

As architectural commissions go, Rinker Hall in Gainesville, Florida, represents both the extraordinary and the ordinary: extraordinary because the building is the new home of the M.E. Rinker, Sr., School of Building Construction, a department of the University of Florida’s College of Design and Construction, so the client and stakeholders were themselves well-versed in the art and science of place making; ordinary because, as is typical of a project for a public university, its funding was limited. The client and architectural team demonstrated that, by working closely and thoughtfully together from the start, an attractive, high-performance design could be delivered within a standard schedule and a no-frills budget. Completed in March 2003 for a mere $137.50 per square foot, Rinker Hall received a LEED rating of gold in 2004.

“It was an exercise in resourceful design,” says Randolph R. Croxton, FAIA, of Croxton Collaborative Architects in New York, which undertook the project through a joint venture with Gould Evans Associates, a firm with offices in seven locations, including Kansas City, Missouri. “It’s almost a bare-bones, reductionist building,” suggests Croxton, “yet it has an inherent richness that won’t diminish over time, because its panache comes from nature rather than from very expensive, capital-intensive gestures.”

 
Rinker Hall, Gainesville, Florida
Croxton Collaborative Architects + Gould Evans Associates oriented the University of Florida’s School of Building Construction on a north-south axis to capture low-angle light (far below). A brick-walled outdoor area (top) serves as a construction yard. An enthalpy wheel filled with dessicant crystals rotates between intake and exhaust-air flows to transfer heat and moisture from the incoming stream to the outgoing one, reducing the building’s operational costs (below).

Photography: © Timothy Hursley

 

Reflecting the belief that sustainable design embodies not only environmental concerns, but social and economic ones as well, the design team chose to orient the building along a north-south axis out of respect for existing landmarks, and to use patterns identified during a three-day site-planning charrette with students, faculty, and staff. It was determined, for example, that the main entrance to Rinker Hall should front Newell Drive, which runs along the west boundary of the site, because the road leads north to the heart of the campus. In addition, participants wanted to preserve an open commons area to the northeast, a footpath along the southern edge, views north to the university’s memorial tower from two dormitories south of the site, and several hundred-year-old specimen oaks.

A north-south axis in this part of the hemisphere flies in the face of conventional, passive-solar design, which teaches that a rectangular building should run along an east-west axis so that its long elevations will face north and south. At the latitude of Gainesville, this configuration minimizes thermal exposure to the hot summer sun but also limits daylighting opportunities.

 

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