Steel Shots: Stemming from Smart Design

The complicated geometry of the building, both in the 2D floor plans and in the multiple roof elevations and slopes, made this project an ideal candidate for using structural steel and a BIM workflow. The engineer ran three complete design iterations using varying composite slab thicknesses in order to optimize the steel and concrete costs while maintaining vibration standards well above those recommended for this building type. (Photo: Courtesy of HDR)

The new Rock Math and Science Center at John Cooper School in The Woodlands, Texas, is a state-of-the-art new STEM school—but it could almost be called a STEAM school. That’s because in addition to focusing on STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the facility exposes students to these concepts through its architecture.

To encourage curiosity in the built environment, the 56,000-sq.-ft, $16.9 million building showcases rather than hides the structure, which was designed by Pinnacle Structural Engineers (PSE). Every element became an important architectural feature as the design progressed, pushing the limits of engineering possibilities at every turn. Learning spaces are programmed to do double duty as both a classroom and an innovative laboratory environment, with collaborative elements that tie the experiences together. As students move between classrooms, they are exposed to the building’s epicenter, a three-story open “forum” that concurrently connects classrooms and serves as an interactive experimentation space that can be observed by students throughout the day.

For more about the project, see the article “Stemming from SMART Design” in our September issue (available now!).

(Photo at right: Allison Marshall)