Dake Wells Architecture designed an award-winning multi-purpose room for a school in Exeter, Mo. ArchiCAD BIM software assisted the architects as they took on that challenge with vigor – going so far as to create a design solution that has been recognized with a National AIA Award. While the Exeter project would be the first Dake Wells submitted to the AIA National Interiors program, the firm received four national awards from 2009 to 2010 and was recognized by Architect Magazine.
The school administration was equally thrilled that within a tight budget, the space provides for a cafeteria, performance theater and gymnasium-based activities. The side effect of increased school spirit the building provides was not lost on them either. “The surrounding communities are much larger, have more resources – so Exeter has had to deal with somewhat of an inferiority complex,” said Dake Wells principal, Brandon Dake. “Now that this project is completed they feel that they have more of which they can be proud. It has brought them together and given them a sense of school spirit.”
The project came with some considerable limitations and demanded extreme flexibility and creativity. The rural town of Exeter, Missouri with population of just 707, turns to the school for a good portion of its entertainment and events. The school’s existing facilities were made up of corridors and multiple pre-engineered metal buildings. Dake Wells chose to locate the multi-purpose room in an existing courtyard which serves to unify the campus.
“We approached this design knowing that we were being asked to create something useful and welcoming that would serve a wide variety of purposes,” said Dake Wells principal, Andrew Wells. “Acoustic needs were just one of the challenges we had to overcome. We’re very pleased that we were able to come up with a room that can morph seamlessly into a central public gathering space for the community as well as students.”
The Exeter school project, completed for $2.2 million – has already hosted events not directly related to the school, further highlighting how the space benefits the community. Since then the space has contributed to an increased sense of pride for the students and is considered a huge success.
“We proposed to combine the space as a way to help them meet their budget restrictions,” added Dake. “This design solution fits into their existing courtyard. It connects what was previously disconnected. It links buildings together and students no longer need to leave the campus to get there.”
Although the project was considered new construction – it could also be considered an addition. As Wells put it, – it became an interiors project. One of the biggest challenges on the design side was addressing acoustics needs and making what was going to be used as a practice gym – a quality performance space.
“We’ve all been to school performances where the acoustics are just awful,” said Wells. “That became priority one for us as we set about to try and solve that – and it was a situation which ArchiCAD helped us manage.”
Dake Wells chose to employ a folded wood element to control and optimize acoustics. They often joke how their culinary choices led to the decision – calling the design a sushi roll – made up of layers of varying sound absorption, including folds in the ceiling to reflect sound and direct it to the audience below, while surrounding materials absorb sound and eliminate reverberation. The ceiling is suspended to allow sound to dissipate in the void above while perforations in the wood further fine-tune the space.
They also called upon the expertise of an acoustic consultant, showing him the 3D model and walk him through it.
“Our acoustics consultant visited our offices to review the model and using that model, he was able to run an analysis,” explained Wells. “That analysis gave us information on which we modified and reworked the design. The end result is not the first solution that we came up with. 3D modeling in ArchiCAD allowed us to test things out and led to the finished project, providing a huge benefit of being able to work and plan in advance, without adding to the bottom line unnecessarily.”
The 3D models created in ArchiCAD also helped the firm addressed the bond issue, make presentations about how the project addressed the needs for the school and be clear about budget requirements. ArchiCAD also helped the firm shed light on the room as well.
“Our approach to daylighting was a big issue for us on this project as well,” said Wells. “We worked with a daylighting consultant from EMSI. Through viewing the 3D model of our original proposal which had two large clear story windows at the end of the space, we were able to determine that although we saw good levels – we had a glare issue. That’s when we added the skylights.”