When Kean University set out to build its Center for Science, Technology & Mathematics Education (CSTME), it was looking for flexible, multidisciplinary teaching and learning spaces that promote collaboration. But this project posed another major challenge for the university and the project team from Cannon Design: This modern science building had to be developed in a registered National Historic Landmark property.
The 110,000-square-foot CSTME is located within Liberty Hall Center, a National Historic Landmark property that was listed on the New Jersey and National
Registers of Historic Places in 1979 and 1972, respectively. The 18th century Georgian residence is historically associated with the American Revolution and New Jersey’s first governor, William Livingston. The approximately 140-acre State Register property includes a number of historic outbuildings and other historic houses.
Liberty Hall Center is situated between Kean University’s Main and East Campuses, running along the west side of Morris Avenue in Union Township.
New construction within the historic boundaries of Liberty Hall was an encroachment under the New Jersey Register of Historic Places Act, and the design team took numerous steps to mitigate this issue including:
• The CSTME building favors the Morris Avenue side of the historic site. Because the Kean University main campus is on the opposite side of Morris Avenue, the Center has a curtain wall façade facing Morris Avenue. This strategy puts science on display to the heavily trafficked street and allows for emphasis of the visual connection with the main campus. It also permits development of a transitional landscape between a nearby corporate center and the Liberty Hall Museum.
• The tallest portion of the CSTME (103 feet) is located almost 200 feet north of a fence marking the line between the modern corporate center and the historic Liberty Hall Museum. Existing trees around the house, historic outbuildings and the existing tree-lined fence along the northern boundary serve to minimize the visibility of the CSTME from within the Liberty Hall historic site.
• The section of the CSTME nearest Liberty Hall, the Auditorium Wing, is two stories tall and is faced in brick in response to the smaller scale of the Liberty Hall buildings and the brick facing on the nearby Carriage House.
In addition, the CSTME site incorporates a landscape design intended to further reduce visual impacts on Liberty Hall. An existing tree-lined fence separates the museum from the corporate center; to blend with that fence, the design uses a combination of indigenous evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs in an organic composition.
These mitigation efforts overcame the issue of developing a modern science building in a National Historic Landmark. But that was only part of Kean University’s goal. The other was to promote the most recent innovations in the art of science teaching.
The CSTME learning spaces combine a seated classroom with a standing wet-laboratory environment, promoting easy access to different teaching methodologies and facilitating group discussion and collaboration. Spaces are modular and flexible to accommodate future curricular and technological changes. A large auditorium, lecture rooms and student lounges are open and foster collaboration while an exhibition area, conference facility, coffee bar and restaurant serve to complete the building’s union of science, pedagogy and the public in a dynamic environment.
The CSTME earned a LEED Gold rating and gained an Innovation in Design credit for its use of custom solar shading. Six-inch-wide, transparent vertical “fins” attached at a 40-degree angle to the southwest-facing curtainwall system greatly reduce exposure to mid-afternoon sun; silkscreen patterning on the fins reduces sun penetration by 40 percent.
The building also utilizes ground-source heating and cooling systems that extract free heat from the ground in winter and reject heat to the ground in summer via a geothermal heat exchanger. This innovative technology will conserve energy across the building’s lifespan while ensuring adequate heating and cooling on extreme temperature days. Other sustainable features include a green roof, gray water reclamation and natural daylighting.