A building that breathes

Southern California is known for year-round sunshine. But that’s not all: our coastal cities also enjoy a steady ocean breeze. So when a new San Diego Continuing Education facility was sited on the Mesa College campus, just three miles uphill from Mission Bay, the project team took inspiration from these natural advantages.

LEED and Beyond

Completed in 2013, the $22.5 million facility has been awarded LEED silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Passive cooling and daylighting played a big part, while sustainable construction materials and high-efficiency plumbing and mechanical systems also contributed to the green qualifications. Not only do these sustainable solutions surpass California’s stringent Title 24 energy efficiency requirements by 43%—they truly bring the best of San Diego’s environment into the classroom.

Designed for natural ventilation

The natural ventilation system combines mechanically operated windows with an open-air corridor. When the ocean breeze flows into the central hallway through screens in the stairwells and clerestories, it is harnessed by a funnel-shaped “wind scoop” that pulls the air through into each classroom. The resulting airflow is strong enough to cool students without disturbing the papers on their desks. Each teacher chooses mechanical or natural cooling through a single switch on the wall.

Natural ventilation diagram

Other sustainable features complement the natural ventilation. Capitalizing on the natural light admitted through the large windows, a responsive lighting system dims electric lights during the day to reduce energy use. Light shelves on the tops of architectural elements and skylights on the second floor cast additional daylight deep into each space. Meanwhile, large overhangs and sun shades shelter windows from direct sunlight in the warmer months.

The Client’s Perspective