John Moffat School of Architecture
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The School of Construction Economics and Management (SCEM) is fully integrated with and forms an extension to the John Moffat School of Architecture, connecting both existing buildings in a holistic design concept.

The planning is derived from a desire to functionally link and integrate the new SCEM and its auditorium with the existing Dorothy Suskind Auditorium thus connecting all lecture facilities in a dynamic single space. The connector is envisaged as a top-lit ramped passage, three meters in width and varying in height, providing for extensive wall surfaces for exhibitions.

The proposal constructs a clear ordering principal of primary routes as paths through the John Moffat precinct creating a series of usable courtyard spaces, which act as social and teaching venues, around which the departments were arranged. Through creating internal and external spaces which are safe, pleasant and useful, Co-Arc intended to contribute to a sense of belonging and identity.

The orthogonal framework of the precinct plan, allowing the proposed pedestrian routes and axial planning principles is supplemented by a diagonal connecting route linking the John Moffat foyer, exhibition area and lecture theatres (Dorothy Suskind) directly to the foyer of the School of Construction Economics and Management forming a cohesive, functional, and integrated identity for the Faculty of the Built Environment in the University of the Witwarsrand.

This was to be achieved by moving one of the lecture theatre by two modules, thereby eliminating the two existing projection rooms whose functions have been superseded.  The existing circular stair, the current centre of serendipitous interaction, will connect onto the ramped gallery, providing a dynamic diagonal linkage to the new foyer area, exhibition space and auditorium. This functionally integrates all existing and future shared lecture and exhibition venues. The intersection of the sloping gallery with the precinct axis and the interacting north-south pedestrian route becomes the new hub of the Faculty. Here the existing carport will be converted to a coffee venue for students and staff incorporating kitchen facilities to serve onto the open courtyard, external amphitheatre, the main foyer and exhibition area providing the hub to cater for social occasions. In keeping with Co-Arcs adherence to the principle of accessibility for all, ramped access for handicapped users is a key concept in this design proposal. All shared venues including the existing JM and JME foyers can be reached via the ramp.

Unlike the ramp system of the existing John Moffat extension building where circulation is non-directional and confusing The gently sloping direct ramp provides the shortest practical route for circulation within the precinct and has been designed to foster the interaction between departments. Complex spatial arrangements have been introduced in section to create a multilayered exhibition venue which links from the existing foyer to the new foyer for the School of Construction Economics and Management. The three storied SCEM building profiled to match JME in height, provides a separate and secure identity but is seen as an integral extension of the precinct. The large auditorium accommodating come 250/280 seats, would provide a major shared venue within the precinct, serving the School of Architecture, the SCEM as well as the University in general. The auditorium is contained within a dramatic cantilevered structure facing onto Yale Street, in conversation with the Yale telescope, the historic and protected building. The diagonal geometry of the ramp provides a sympathetic planning solution for the auditorium and its acoustic demands.

The SCEM building, L shaped within an internal landscaped courtyard and with the main auditorium to the west provides the enclosure to a large covered foyer/exhibition courtyard, which is   accessed from both the Gallery ramp and the North-South pedestrian route dissecting the precinct. The L-Shaped plan of the faculty provides the required accommodation to be planned on three levels.  The lift/stair and toilets are planned as a core element with differentially sized office wings attached.  Above the reception and centrally located is the common room, whilst the top floor contains the office for the head of the school, as well as the school board room.  The east-west wing contains the staff faculty and admin offices.  Interview rooms are dispersed within the building with an option of provisionally uniting two rooms, capable of subdivision. A ramped access from the foyer to a lower sunken floor level, provides for the further shared venues, tutorial rooms and the multifunctional teaching facility. The lower ground floor, reached via the ramp from the N-S pedestrian node as well as from the foyer level, contains the four tutorial rooms. Glazed screens to the sunken landscaped court provide for the psychological need for natural sunlight and ventilation. The multi-functional 50 seat teaching facility is planned directly below the raked auditorium providing for a dynamic volumetric teaching space.

An “Open” circulation concept where all passages overlook an internal landscaped courtyard allows all offices views onto this feature and ensures that the office areas are capable of natural cross-ventilation. No air-conditioning is envisaged, the concept provides for south facing offices, cool in summer, with a sustainable under floor solar hot water heating, providing for comfort levels in winter.

The external facades to the offices are designed for natural ventilation and are screened with a perforated panel fixed to an external floor slab. This concept provides: a rain screen allowing windows to be left open for ventilation, a security screen and reduces the.

glare factor eliminating the need for curtains or blinds, saving on capital and long-term replacement costs.

Various areas, externally as well as internally are planned to support concepts of environmental principles. The triangular sunken courtyard (Bamboo Forest) provides various levels of visual interaction within the offices, as well as the tutorial rooms. Enhanced humidity in winter could provide quality air as part of the system. The central court would become a planted forest contributing in to air quality and the carbon factor issue while providing a cool environment for students to hang out within the faculty.

The opportunity and challenge in the proposed design is to communicate the long term sustainability philosophy on all levels, incorporating design principles in order to achieve the required green star rating for the project. The basic design principle and starting point is to incorporate in principal a passive architectural design philosophy in the design process.

The existing JME building provides a starting point to encapsulate, a series of required internal spaces via the incorporation of the SCEM building and the auditorium within a glazed roofed enclosure. This concept would provide an acceptable sustainable environment. The enclosure of the south façade of the existing extension(JME) would improve energy needs of the existing building. The need for air-conditioning has been eliminated and natural methods of providing cool ventilation in summerwas achieved through orientation (south-east facing) with minimal solar interference as well as the use of natural lighting as far as possible. Double glazing to all external offices windows improves the insulation to the façade (winter).

The need to create comfort conditions during 4 - 5 months of the highveld winter has been  addressed in a system, evolved in projects in Europe. Solar panels located on the auditorium roof would provide hot-water. Solar hot water pipes strategically located within the floor screed are to be pumped throughout the office floors, achieving acceptable levels of comfort. The use of solar energy for space heating is an additional practical, sustainable and affordable low energy concept. Based on a building in Dusseldorf, Germany the covered courtyards are heated via hot water pipes imbedded within the floor. Hot air (stratified below the glass roof) provides air at temperatures in excess of 25°C at the upper levels which is captured and fed into the system. Although initial capital expenditure needs to be incurred the sustainable life-cycle costs would be significantly reduced. The glass roof incorporates vertical solar screens, which assist in space heating (winter) and has openable sections at roof level, assisting in stratification of hot air in winter and, providing cross ventilation (air-flow) within the SCEM building during summer.

The glazed atrium roof also harvests significant additional rainwater via collector gutters. This together with grey stored water treatment plant would eliminate the need for council supplied water.

Sustainability of all materials used and the long term life cycle costs (energy) of maintainance were considered in the choice of materials. Co-Arc believes that within the passive design philosophy, with its reduced electrical energy demands, a 4 star rating could be achievable within the economic limitations of the financial budget. A preliminary analysis of the design presented indicated a potential achievable point score of 52 (4 star).

The most expensive component in the building would be the auditorium, incorporating a raked floor, double volume, suspended ceilings, walls requiring acoustical performance as well as the built-in seating. The raked seating would provide excellent viewing angles required for this size of auditorium. A profiled ceiling configuration would be acoustically developed inclusive of cat-ladders for maintenance of lights, etc. The option to provide sufficient and acceptable air-flow to the auditorium via floor outlets, thus allowing natural air stratification principles to be incorporated was considered.  Although it would be a challenge to eliminate the need for air-conditioning to this large auditorium and would require technical development to achieve a sustainable low energy solution, eliminating the need for high energy mechanical means to achieve acceptable environmental standards (summer and winter) was proposed.

A combination of structural and material systems will be used. Suitable and economically available reinforced concrete slabs, columns, walls, enclosures built in a combination of off-shutter concrete and exposed block work and the use of long term sustainable construction techniques using environmentally sustainable finishes, ensure low maintenance. Steel structures for long span light weight roofing structures provide an economical solution to the enclosed courtyards. Construction detailing provides the required acoustic performance and noise reduction to a sensitive space situated at close proximity to the M1 freeway.

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