Challenging Convention

Health Sciences Complex

Chemeketa Community College

Faced with a growing allied health program and a shortage of space, Chemeketa Community College sought a sustainable renovation and addition to its existing health sciences building. The design team proposed an unconventional and potentially risky approach for the 72,000 sf addition: eliminate mechanical air conditioning and use passive cooling strategies to provide a comfortable, healthy building. The resulting addition uses 60% less energy than code, costs the same as conventional design, and saves nearly $35,000 per year in operational costs compared to a code baseline building.


133,000 sf; 61,000 sf Renovation; 72,000 sf Addition


Salem, OR

Year Complete



LEED Silver (equivalent)

2013 Merit Award — Sustainable Buildings Industry Council SBIC, Beyond Green High Performance Building Awards

2013 Grand Prize — Architecture 2030 and AIA Portland 2030 Design Challenge

2013 Green Building of the Year — Mid-Valley Green Awards

2012 3rd Place, Public Buildings — DJC TopProjects

Nurturing a Growing Health Sciences Program

Chemeketa Community College’s Health Sciences Building was built as an addition to the College’s existing health and sciences facility in order to create a fully integrated complex that could accommodate future growth. This multi-phase project included extensive remodeling and upgrades to the existing 61,000 SF building. The final program combines science labs, a dental lab and clinic space, and incorporates more general classrooms than in the original program. It also includes a partner institution chiropractic clinic that was added late in the project.

Maximizing Occupant Comfort

The design for passive ventilation relied upon research which shows that an inside temperature of 80-82° F is comfortable if the surrounding building mass is cool and air movement is present. These conditions result in a perceived temperature of 76°, which is within the standard acceptable design temperature range for conventional buildings. Thus the goal was to make sure the mass temperature was sufficient so that the indoor temperature was 82° or less. To promote air movement,every occupiable room was equipped with ceiling fans, reducing the perceived temperature by two or three degrees. Thus far the building has outperformed the energy model and has remained comfortable with indoor temperatures not expected to exceed 82° in average year.

Daylight harvesting was incorporated wherever possible. This strategy both minimizes the energy needed for lighting and reduces the internal heat gain from the light fixtures. The clearstory in the lower classroom provides light for two thirds of the room while the light shaft services the innermost one third of the room. In the upper classroom daylight from the reflector is distributed to the sloping ceiling and then to the desktops. The degree of tint in the electrochromic glass determines the light level reaching into the room.

Understanding User Needs

SRG led extensive workshops with user groups, including the President, VP, Deans and the facilities director, to understand their specific needs and the project goals. A key goal for the project that came out of these sessions was the importance of siting the building so that it connected to the existing campus fabric. A small wing of the existing building was demolished to accommodate a large 72,000 SF addition. Faculty offices are grouped in the center to encourage interaction between the departments and bridge between the existing facility and new construction.

Science on Display

The building design brought science and health faculty together into a functional suite to foster interdisciplinary communication. It also incorporated science on display in the student tutor space, and learning on display through visibility to the classrooms, balanced with security and safety.