Founded in 1789, Georgetown University possesses a pedigree almost as old as the United States itself. Owing to its age, the private college, which is located on a 104-acre campus in Washington, D.C., contains many historic structures that include a mix of both gothic and Georgian styles. When the university decided to construct a new facility to house the McDonough School of Business, it took pains to remain true to its architectural heritage while taking advantage of modern technology. The result: an $82.5 million, 179,000-sq-ft stone masonry, steel, and glass structure that aesthetically blends into its surroundings yet recently attained LEED Silver certification.

Designated the Rafik B. Hariri Building, the facility comprises 15 classrooms, 34 breakout rooms, 15 conference rooms, 11 interview rooms, a 400-seat auditorium, two student lounges, and 120 faculty offices. Data ports, flat-screen monitors, and videoconferencing capabilities in the student areas allow global connectivity. Some might argue, however, that the star of the McDonough School of Business is the expansive glass atrium that spans the structure's entire east elevation.

“The atrium is not only visually stunning, but it also allows for an abundance of natural daylighting, which helps the facility achieve its expected 15% energy savings,” notes Tim Donaldson, president of Merical Electrical, the Upper Marlboro, Md.-based electrical contractor that installed the building's lighting, teledata, fire alarm, security, and lightning protection systems along with the audio/visual infrastructure.

Although distinctive, the atrium proved to be one of the most challenging aspects of this turnkey project, explains Donaldson.

“Ceiling space in the open atrium area was at a premium,” he says. “ This required us to plot everything on CAD drawings and coordinate with the other trades to make sure all the pieces — including electrical conduit, ductwork, cable tray, and chilled water pipes — fit into the limited ceiling area. To ensure work progressed as planned, we conducted meetings every two weeks.”

In addition to the atrium, another of the facility's unique features is the luminaires themselves. Instead of using lay-in-type fixtures typically seen in similar structures, the building employs pendant-mounted, cable-mounted, and cove-mounted custom, high-end fixtures.

“All the lights are controlled by a low-voltage switching system, which allows them to be programmed to turn off and on at certain times to conserve energy,” says Donaldson. “The system can be operated from a laptop computer or even from off-site, if need be.”

In addition, motion sensors and motorized window shades located throughout the building help control the amount of light the system provides in each room/space. Other environmentally friendly features include optimized garage exhaust fan controls, ultra-low-flow lavatory fixtures, water-efficient landscaping, and low-emitting paints, adhesives, sealants, and carpeting. Furthermore, almost 31% of the total building materials were extracted, harvested, or recovered (as well as manufactured) within 500 miles of the project site.

Constructed from the ground up at the site of a former parking lot, the Rafik B. Hariri Building took two and half years to complete and opened on schedule.

“In addition to Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area are home to several excellent colleges,” says Donaldson. “We anticipate that the addition of this state-of-the-art facility will help Georgetown University remain one of the region's and country's top schools.”