UMC Wellness Center Honored for Sustainable Design

The new wellness center at the University of Minnesota-Crookston (UMC) was named “The Best of B3 Design” by the State of Minnesota.  The Buildings, Benchmarks, and Beyond – or B3 – program requires buildings to improve energy efficiency by 60% in an effort to have all State construction carbon neutral by 2030.  The project met the 60% energy savings required by B3, and also beat the B3 Carbon Emissions and Water Use standards, reducing emissions by 34% and water consumption by 64%.  According to b3mn.org, “the UMC Wellness Center excelled at using the B3 Guidelines to set and meet sustainability goals, resulting in a more efficient and higher value project.”

Designed by JLG Architects, Hastings+Chivetta, and Studio Hive, the Wellness Center responds to the rapidly-growing student body who wanted recreation spaces separate from those used by athletic teams.  UMC challenged the architecture and interior design team to create a sustainable facility that would cultivate healthy lifestyles through teaching, learning, and participating in individual and group activities based upon the seven dimensions of wellness: Emotional, Intellectual, Physical, Spiritual, Environmental, Social, and Occupational.

The exterior compliments the existing campus aesthetic through shared materials, roof styles, and building heights, but separates itself through two-story windows not found anywhere else on campus.  The windows proved to be a challenge to the design team, who felt them necessary to provide the most natural light in the high-use fitness and cardio spaces.  In order to create a bird-safe façade without sacrificing views or light performance, a white ceramic frit was applied to the glass.  The fritted glass is more visible from the exterior and allows birds to avoid collisions without taking away view from the outside.

The design includes a 20 KW solar power array to offset 80 KBtu, or 4%, of the total energy use each year. With the full array installed on the roof for maximum power generation, a demonstration panel was installed at ground level for education purposes. The demonstration panel is incorporated into the natural landscape, which was designed as a collaborative effort with the UMC horticulture program. Low- and no-irrigation, native species perennials, shrubs, and trees were selected to showcase plant diversity and educate the public about sustainable landscape options.

The building’s interiors were designed for maximum flexibility and durability.  Visitors to the center are provided with multiple choices for workouts and physical activity – including a two-court gymnasium, a running track, fitness areas, and a multi-purpose group exercise room – as well as lounges for studying and gathering.  Visual and physical connections between the first and second levels encourage interactivity, and a large-scale screen defines the cardio equipment.  A classroom is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to test current fitness levels and measure the impacts of physical activity.

Three finalists were identified as the Best of B3 Design, with the award ultimately going to the UMC Wellness Center.  The Best of B3 Awards are given to organizations and projects that have shown leadership in improving their sustainability through their participation in B3 programs. For more information, visit www.b3mn.org/best.