2011 Facility of Merit Winner: Smith Aquatic & Fitness Center, Buford Middle School

Situated on the Charlottesville, Va., campus of Buford Middle School as part of a recreation complex that includes an adjacent Boys & Girls Club, the LEED Platinum Smith Aquatic Center won praise for a simple rectangular plan enhanced by judicious selection of materials - to cite one notable example, blue-colored glass tile and raised aluminum signage on the two-story east wall of the natatorium. The center "does all the right things," said one judge. "It's simple, monolithic in form but softened with the right materials and detail."

In order to minimize the environmental exposure of the building, the facility was constructed into the hillside with the main entrance on the upper level and the locker rooms and natatorium on the lower level. The exterior design utilized thermally modified wood louvers, corrugated metal panels and strip aluminum storefront window systems in an effort to animate the large box of otherwise monolithic white ground-face block.

Care was taken to analyze solar modeling data to ensure best placement and treatment of window systems to maximize natural lighting while minimizing direct glare and solar gain. The natatorium thus strategically allows natural daylighting from many different orientations - high windows on the east side, low windows on the west and a north-facing clerestory - while restricting glare on the water surface. Vertical and horizontal aluminum airfoils were used to restrict direct sunlight into the natatorium. According to one judge, the project was "a great exercise in the control of daylighting and the detailing of the exterior materials."

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