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The Lavin-Bernick Center for Student Life, Tulane University

New Orleans, Louisiana
VJAA

A New Orleans university perseveres with sustainable design after Hurricane Katrina.

Fourteen months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, the doors of the new Tulane University Lavin-Bernick Center for Student Life were opened. The project, an expansion of an 112,000-square-foot, two-story building, moved forward despite the aftermath of Katrina and a modest budget. The result is an ambitious sustainable structure.

The Lavin-Bernick Center for Student Life, Tulane University
Photo © Paul Crosby

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Nathan Knutson, Vincent James, Jennifer Yoos
Photo courtesy VJAA
Left to right: Nathan Knutson, Vincent James, Jennifer Yoos

Centrally located along McAlister Drive, the major pedestrian and vehicular axis through Tulane University’s campus is a transformation of a rigidly compartmentalized and environmentally inefficient building, into an expanded and sustainable university center. The original concrete frame of the pre-existing building was reused, saving an estimated $8 million in construction costs, conserving resources, and helping reduce the amount of demolition debris sent to landfills. The new building connects and overlaps two important green spaces, the central quad, and a small park between the center and an adjacent sports arena.

Although the existing frame was preserved, the program of the former building was altered and enlarged. With an additional 36,000 square feet, the center now includes a public lounge and study spaces, full dining and catering services, an expanded bookstore, commercial services, multi-room conference facilities, a 300-seat auditorium, and student program offices.

Characteristic southern architectural features were incorporated in the design: Canopies, shutters, balconies, fans, and a porous envelope temper the effects of the New Orleans climate, promoting passive cooling when conditions permit. The building can also operate in relatively conventional cooling mode. A building management system monitors indoor and outdoor climatic conditions, and optimizes a mixed-mode system of air-conditioning, radiant surfaces, and mechanical and natural ventilation.

Formal name of project: The Lavin-Bernick Center for Student Life, Tulane University

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Gross square footage: 150,000 sq.ft.

Total construction cost: $170 per square foot

Owner: Tulane University

Architect:
VJAA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 410
Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55401
P: 612-872-6370
F: 612-872-6380

 

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