De Anza College, Kirsch Center for Environmental Studies, in Cupertino, Calif. Courtesy VBN Architects

De Anza College, Kirsch Center for Environmental Studies



As the first LEED Platinum community college building in the United States, the Kirsch Center for Environmental Studies is a place for students to learn about environmental stewardship, sustainability, and energy and resource management. The two-story, 23,000-square-foot facility demonstrates the “climate responsive building concept” of integrating passive solar design, building-integrated photovoltaics, and other energy-efficient measures.

On the first floor there is a biodiversity lab, a biodiversity outdoor classroom, an energy exhibit hall, a small group learning space, a 90-seat lecture classroom and two 45-seat lecture classrooms. On the second floor there is an energy management lab, various study/tutorial areas, a second small group learning space, a resource center, an astronomy observation lab, the division and faculty offices and conference rooms. The building features a two-story atrium clad with photovoltaic glazing.

The building’s structural system is a structural steel frame, with floor construction consisting of concrete fill over composite steel deck, supported by a combination of steel wide flange beams and open web steel joists. The lateral force-resisting system features special concentric braced steel frames, exposed as an armature of the architecture.

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