A Commitment to a "Next Generation" School and Workspace
In the spring of 2010, The University of Texas unveiled a newly renovated and state-of-the-art facility for the LBJ School of Public Affairs. The $19 million revitalization elevated the School’s profile as a dynamic, collaborative and globally engaged public affairs school. The new building design not only tripled the amount of classroom space, but it integrated the latest in instructional and media technologies, increased the energy efficiency of the systems, and—most importantly—took advantage of the kinetic energy of the students and faculty to encourage discussion, collaboration and collegiality.
From the earliest planning stages in 2006, the architects’ goal was to revolutionize the LBJ School space to facilitate a flow of people and work that maximized academic performance and expanded programmatic capacities. The first floor lobby was designed to be a warm, welcoming area with a new coffee shop, comfortable furnishings, and plenty of spaces that are both functional and adaptable. The overall feel of the School has become more modern—both visually and technologically—and provides places for the formal and informal collaborations that are an essential part of a public policy school. The core concept for the design focuses on the functionality of the School’s research and policy centers, allowing people of common interests and function to interact more easily and draw dynamic energy through interaction.
Classrooms and Study Spaces: More, Bigger, Flexible and Wired
Increasing classroom sizes—while upgrading instructional technologies that fuel modern academic interaction—was fundamental to the new building design. The new design nearly triples the classroom space of the old (from 3,912 to 10,396 square feet) and allows for a variety of adaptable configurations to meet specific needs and teaching environments. Classrooms on the second and third floors are equipped with sound-resistant room dividers, allowing for a 70-seat, lecture-style classroom to be converted into two, 35-seat seminar rooms. Distributing classrooms across all three floors also improved access by all students, staff, and faculty at the School for use by student working groups, administrative committees, faculty meetings, etc.
Because public policy work relies heavily on cooperation and teamwork, the new building includes a tremendous amount of collaborative study spaces of varying sizes to allow undisturbed group and individual study. Electronic technology is an important component to these common areas. As the School continues to expand its wireless network and develops common areas for collaboration, the new computing space will accommodate power outlets and networks.
Cutting-Edge Technology and Energy Efficiency
When Sid Richardson Hall was built 40 years ago, the electrical and engineering designers did not envision the televisions, copiers, wireless networks and computers that would come to revolutionize our instructional pedagogies and raise our expectations for data and analytical skills. Equally as important was the commitment to make the LBJ School far more energy and environmentally efficient. While the University’s scope of the renovation did not allow for every possible energy and environmental efficiency, it did provide a number of opportunities for improving informational technologies and reducing the School’s carbon footprint. Some of the ideas incorporated into the design included installing low-flow sinks and toilets, reconfiguring appliances, replacing the outdated lighting scheme with high-efficiency lighting controls (dimmers, time-limited switches, high-efficiency bulbs, etc.), and replacing old electrical and cooling/heating systems with a new energy management infrastructure.