A building with sustainable solutions

Advancing renewable energy and careers on Long Island

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Center at Suffolk County Community College on Eastern Long Island has a unique dual mission. We designed the 24,000-square-foot center as a real-world, net-zero building that serves as a teaching facility for students entering the renewable energy industry.

The two-story story building incorporates classrooms, labs, study lounges and two symposium spaces centered around the idea of a “living laboratory” where students can measure and analyze the various building systems.

The building is anchored by a lobby at one side and a matching open symposium space at the other. The exterior expression maps optimal placement of classroom windows for daylighting. The façade harkens back to the clapboard siding of Long Island, expressed in a contemporary manner. The overall palette of the building reflects the sense of place of Long Island, reflecting the south shore’s beach and waves.

Achieving net-zero

With sustainability as a top priority of the project, several energy-saving strategies and tools were thoughtfully incorporated throughout the STEM Center. The building is encompassed by a high-efficiency envelope, and the windows use high-performance glazing. Photovoltaic panels are included on the building’s roof. The building itself is set as a triangular wedge rising towards the south, and its main and mezzanine floors are infused with natural light from all directions.

Nature is represented by a low center berm on the south, which provides insultation and leads to a green roof on the second floor that enables the students to see systems at work. An exposed mechanical, electrical and plumbing system allows students to observe these building functions.

A model for future facilities

Currently under construction, the STEM Center is considered a legacy building for the college and will be used as a model for future campus facilities. The building is expected to be totally self-sufficient, producing all the energy needed for its function.

In designing the STEM Center, our team was determined to demonstrate the potential for similar buildings to be easily constructed on campus. As a result, we used systems that were readily available and needed minimal, if any, alterations.

The building takes its cue from the environment — the sun and the earth — to showcase a novel approach to environmentally responsive design.

More than a building

Our work on the STEM Center will provide numerous benefits to the community. As a teaching facility, it will help advance the renewable energy labor pool on Long Island by enabling students, many of whom are from underprivileged backgrounds, to develop the skills they need to establish careers in the renewable energy industry — positions expected to be in demand in the coming years.

The STEM Center also sets the stage for the potential design and construction of additional net-zero buildings, furthering the use of renewable energy and helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions on Long Island.