New Virginia Tech building design centers on sustainability and connectivity

April 23, 2020

The design of the first Innovation Campus building for Virginia Tech, Alexandria, Virginia, centers on sustainability and connectivity. Rendering courtesy SmithGroup[1]
The design of the first Innovation Campus building for Virginia Tech, Alexandria, Virginia, centers on sustainability and connectivity.
Rendering courtesy SmithGroup

Designed by SmithGroup[2], the first academic building for Virginia Tech[3]’s Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Virginia, features a design centered on the principles of sustainability, health and wellness, green and social spaces, accessibility, connectivity, flexibility, and integrated technology.

Virginia Tech announced plans for the new campus as part of the state’s successful bid to attract Amazon to the region. The Innovation Campus will make its home in the first phase of a new mixed-use development and innovation district in North Potomac Yard.

The Innovation Campus comprises three buildings on about 1.6 ha (4 acre) at the northern end of phase 1, near Alexandria’s border with Arlington County. The other six buildings in this phase will house office, residential, and ground-level retail space, according to a preliminary plan filed last year with the city.

SmithGroup was chosen through a public process to provide integrated architecture and engineering design services for Academic 1. The university expects to break ground in 2021 and be completed in fall 2024.

When completed, the 27,871-m2 (300,000-sf) building will provide instruction, research, office, and support spaces for graduate-level programs in computer science and computer engineering, as well as select other programs. Experiential learning environments within this building will be designed to enhance the Virginia Tech experience including flexible multi-purpose areas, research and testing labs, and maker spaces.

SmithGroup is utilizing state-of-the-art computational and generative design techniques to inform the building’s unique geometry. The form was sculpted to capture the sunlight and energy to maximize photovoltaic (PV) power generation. The building will be capped by a solar array and PVs will be incorporated into the glass of the façade. It will also be staged to deploy sewage water energy exchange and geothermal energy to offset energy use in future phasing.

The academic building incorporates opportunities for daylight, while addressing solar heat gain, glare, and occupant comfort. Occupants will have access to nature through connection to open space and parks in the district, and within the building via multiple terraces. The ground floor will be welcoming and active, with exhibits in the lobby and transparency toward the campus green. The university can put science on display to better connect with the local community and attract future students.

SmithGroup is also taking inspiration from Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus by including dolomite limestone (‘Hokie Stone’) in the landscape, and together with the university’s staff, is exploring special use of the stone at the base of the building, to balance the glass and metal façades with the warmth and solidity of natural stone.

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