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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: The Sound of Green

May 11, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jessaca Gutierrez

Point Park University, Pittsburgh


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Architect's Perspective

Dancer Alana Gergerich practices in Point Park University’s new LEED Gold-certified dance complex. When the university, which has one of the top dance programs in the country, decided to build the new dance complex, green design played a major role. A change from a central amplification control room to localized powered loudspeakers in each studio decreased materials, labor, and energy.

Dancer Alana Gergerich practices in Point Park University's new LEED Gold-certified dance complex. When the university, which has one of the top dance programs in the country, decided to build the new dance complex, green design played a major role. A change from a central amplification control room to localized powered loudspeakers in each studio decreased materials, labor, and energy.
Photo: Cheryl Mann Photography

Pittsburgh is a far cry from the city that has, up until recent years, been known as The Smoky City because of the steel industry's presence. Situated in the East End of the Golden Triangle, Pittsburgh's downtown, Point Park University (PPU) is fast becoming a key player in the city's effort to revitalize downtown and clear the air. When Point Park sought to build a new dance complex for what is one of the nation's top preprofessional dance institutions, university officials had green in mind, but just how green took everyone by surprise.

"We started with presidential mandate to build at the very minimum a LEED Certified building. As we got further along, LEED Bronze was within reach," says David Nash, principal of StoweNash Associates, the consultant on the project. "We broke ground thinking that we were going to be building a Bronze building, maybe Silver. In the end, it turns out that we achieved LEED Gold, the first of its type. Contrary to popular belief, LEED isn't a dealbreaker. Because we started by embracing the LEED ideals, we were able to reach Gold status without a significant increase in budget."

Although PPU's dance program is one of the best—it's in the same league as The Julliard School, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and Indiana University—the old facility was substandard and a poor representation of the talent the school produces. A typical small dance studio would be at least 1200 square feet, and a midsize studio is about 2400 square feet. PPU's dance facility only had two studios out of 10 that were midsize, and the rest were less than 1200 square feet, making it difficult to use the studios for the complicated dance moves the students perform.

"The AV complement in those studios was typically a home stereo with a CD player popped into it and a VCR and TV monitor on a rolling cart that would move from studio to studio, always getting there late or being double-booked," Nash says.

The initial plan was to build four studios, which could be increased to eight in the future, with a centralized amplifier control room. Each studio would have local control and playback gear, but the control room would house the amplification system. But like all things, architecture and systems design is a process—what Design Principal Marty Powell from The Design Alliance in Pittsburgh calls a "patient search for a solution" that requires going back to the drawing board again and again. (See more of Powell's insight at svconline.com.) It's in that process, and the green-building analysis, that a new concept shook out. Instead of building a centralized space, the design would incorporate powered loudspeakers in each studio, allowing the AV to be localized to a studio and greening the design even more. This design also allowed for the addition of three more studios.



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