The Higher Education Center is a joint ownership project with Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College. The initial pre-design study demonstrated that a shared facility would be approximately 30% more cost-efficient than two stand-alone buildings. The new building sets a precedent in Oregon for co-locating a 2-year and 4-year institution and was awarded LEED Platinum certification in May 2010.
The 68,700 sf building is designed to replace poorly adapted existing buildings, previously leased by the two institutions. The combined building houses 28 general classrooms, 3 computer labs, a tiered presentation hall, a large lecture hall, 2 biology/chemistry labs, 1 physics lab and faculty offices. The plan is configured around a central three-story atrium, with a student lounge and coffee bar in the first floor. In addition to student outreach, the building is designed to connect with the Medford downtown business community by incorporating a Business Resource Center. The joint-use building is seen by the community and the institutions as a catalyst for downtown development and a significant anchor to the downtown Education Core, which includes RCC Riverside campus and Medford Public Library.
The design process involved on-site workshops with students, staff and faculty to develop three basic classroom layouts that allowed flexible learning and instruction environments. All classrooms are smart rooms, with multi-media controlled from a movable podium. Student break-out areas and study alcoves accent the daylit circulation system.
The high performance features reflect a design process that focused no- or low-cost strategic decisions, including a focus on window wall ratio that optimized daylight while minimizing thermal loss. Using cost savings achieved during construction, the Southern Oregon University has purchased a 55KW solar PV array for the facility. The building is sited to allow on-site stormwater detention in an urban garden setting. A large plaza connects to an active pedestrian street developed by Medford Urban Renewal Agency.