Media and Learning Center north entrance

Media & Learning Center

Energy Strategies

The Media and Learning Center, designed by Ratcliff Architects, was built to realize a savings of 71 percent less energy than the regional average for a higher education building, saving the campus an estimated $60,000 per year.

Exterior Media & Learning Center

The 67,000 square foot structure houses fourteen classrooms, for anthropology and general education, all outfitted with the latest AV and communication technology. A specialized distance learning classroom, in conjunction with a TV studio and production suite, supports the campus’ broadcast media package that includes online, video streaming and cable TV services.

A central two‐story atrium creates a dramatic interior public space and features exhibits by the anthropology department and an interactive dashboard tracking real‐time data about building performance and class information.

Natural-Air Ventilation HVAC System

The MLC is one of few large buildings in the world featuring a passive downdraft, natural‐air ventilation HVAC system that operates by drawing in outside air through tower‐shaped air intakes on the rooftop.

  • As the air passes over cooling coils and the temperature decreases, it falls downward through large air shafts into the under‐floor air plenums serving the first and second floors.
  • Strategically‐placed heating coils warm the air as needed to meet occupant comfort criteria, at which point the air is supplied to the building interior through local floor diffusers.
  • As air is warmed by occupants and equipment, it rises along with indoor pollutants to ceiling exhaust shafts, which direct air into the atrium where it is ultimately exhausted through clerestory louvers at the atrium rooftop.

Together with the passive downdraft HVAC system, the following energy strategies will earn the project a LEED for new construction Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council:

Natural light

The atrium is bathed in natural light by a high‐performance, fritted‐glass skylight—
integrated with a 6,000 square foot photovoltaic array—extending over its entire 80 yard length.
The atrium is also a major component of the building’s unique buoyancy‐driven air circulation
system, which ventilates more than 80 percent of the building without fan power.

Heating and Cooling

The building uses an under‐floor air distribution system to deliver air directly
into the occupied zone. This can reduce energy use and improve perceived indoor air quality by
allowing for warmer supply air temperatures and encouraging thermal stratification. Space heating
and cooling is provided throughout the atrium by a radiant floor system that circulates hot/cold
water through tubes embedded in the concrete atrium slab.

Solar Power

On‐site renewable energy systems will reduce annual energy costs by nearly 28
percent. In addition to the photovoltaic panels are 1,500 square feet of solar thermal collectors that will provide both domestic hot water and a large portion of the heating load during cold weather.

Water Savings

Low‐flow plumbing fixtures reduce indoor water use to 48 percent below the
calculated LEED baseline, equal to an annual savings of roughly 117,000 gallons of potable water.


Interior materials including carpet tile, floor tile, insulating batts, acoustical panels and
countertops contain recycled and regional content materials.


Siting the building to maximize exposure to north and south light was key to energy
efficiency and also made room for a new landscaped quadrant that extends learning spaces out of
doors. The grounds are also sustainable, with drought‐resistant vegetation, shade trees and stormwater runnels that slow and treat storm water runoff.

See more images of the MLC on the Ratcliff website.

Media & Learning Center
Building: MLC
Contact: Donna Jones Dulin
Phone: 408.864.8209

Last Updated: 5/7/13