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Learning Commons, Savannah, Ga.

Armstrong Atlantic State University's Learning Commons is a combination of two buildings from different decades.

Armstrong Atlantic State University's Learning Commons is a combination of two buildings from different decades. A former campus bookstore, built in 1982, and the Memorial Center, constructed in 1965, occupied by the university's information technology services, afforded 14,500 square feet for the Learning Commons, completed in May 2012.

Learning Common's south entry faces the plaza, is heavily used and has a significant visual impact along the pedestrian path, a high traffic area for the university's 7,500 students, faculty and visitors.

Cogdell & Mendrala Architects PC selected an aluminum bar grating sunscreen from McNICHOLS Co. to reduce solar impact and match the natural anodized finish of the curtainwall and roof fascia. Don Cogdell, AIA, of Cogdell & Mendrala, says aluminum metal bar grating helped bridge the gap from the past to present day. "We wanted to make the statement that this is a current building, separate from those built in 1965 and 1982, yet blends well into the campus setting," he says.

Clear anodized bar grating, approximately 4 by 10 feet, was installed above the entry doors. It is 1-inch by 3/16-inch-thick and has 77 percent open area. McNICHOLS cut the bar grating into custom sizes and it is secured on a metal frame attached to the roof by stainless steel rods.

A working mechanical courtyard, which includes HVAC units and other equipment essential to campus operations, is located on the side opposite the south entry in direct view of the President's Dining Room, located on the second floor of the Student Union.

A similar bar grating in varying anodized finishes transform the industrial-look of the mechanical courtyard into a more aesthetically pleasing environment. The anodized panels for this application vary between light bronze, dark bronze and natural. The material's open area allows air circulation necessary for the mechanical equipment to function, while the color and placement of the panels give the arrangement of metal a sculpture-like appearance when viewed from above.

Cogdell says the panels were placed along a structural grid that extends across the courtyard and positioned in various angles and heights. "Our concept was to create dimension and shadowing," he says.

Mel Manor, Armstrong Atlantic State University's construction project manager of plant operations, says this was the first time bar grating was used on campus for this application and it was a unique feature that blended well. "The majority of the campus buildings have structural steel framing components, such as louvers and grating, which in some cases are exposed to view," he says.

Learning Commons has rooftop solar panels and a vegetated green live roof. The project is LEED Gold certified and the University System of Georgia gave Learning Commons a 2013 Innovation Award for Design and Technology.

General contractor: Garbutt Christman, Dublin, Ga.

Architect: Cogdell & Mendrala Architects PC, Savannah

Sunscreen: McNICHOLS Co., Tampa, Fla., www.mcnichols.com