Valencia College striving for "net zero" energy impact at new Poinciana campus

Valencia College officials used the ASU Polytechnic Campus in Mesa as an inspiration for the "modern agrarian" style of the new Poinciana campus.
Valencia College officials used the ASU Polytechnic Campus in Mesa as an inspiration for the "modern agrarian" style of the new Poinciana campus. (Arizona State University)

Valencia College leaders are taking their commitment to sustainability to a new level with the design of the new Poinciana campus in Osceola County.

"I don't know if we'll be able to make it happen, but our goal is to make sure the campus is built with a net-zero impact on the environment," campus President Kathleen Plinske said.


She told GrowthSpotter the 65,000-square-foot building, slated to open in fall 2017, would be completely solar powered and designed to capture and reuse rainwater.

"Our Lake Nona campus was built to LEED Gold Standards," she said. "But this would be even more of a commitment to sustainability."

She said construction manager Clancy & Theys - selected last week - will work closely with the architects from DLR Group to achieve the efficiency standard within the $23 million budget.

DLR turned in its design schematics last week. Allen Bortoff, assistant vice president of facilities, said that after seeing various concepts, the committee selected the design that was most respectful to the existing landscape. "The intent is to use an agrarian approach, creating a building that fits naturally on this site, reflecting its sustainable attributes," he said.

Plinske said the Polytechnic Campus at Arizona State University in Mesa served as an inspiration for the "modern agrarian" style, particularly the use of perforated metal shade structures. Some of those techniques could be reproduced at the Poinciana campus.

The shade structures, which are attached to the building's exterior, filter the sunlight, improve energy efficiency and protect migratory birds.

"One of the things we were challenged with - in a good way - was finding a campus that really fit with the land around it," she said. "That parcel extends all the way out to Lake Toho. So we want something that doesn't look out of place in such an environmentally rich location."

Osceola County is donating the 19-acre site to the college as part of its nearly 400-acre College Station mixed-use planned development on the west shore of Lake Tohopalika.

Plinske also revealed some of the classroom spaces and offerings that will be unique to the Poinciana campus. The 3-story building will be the first campus in the Valencia system to have a classroom outfitted with video conferencing equipment that will allow students to enroll and participate in classes at other campuses.

The Poinciana campus will offer courses in culinary arts and hospitality management. It will have a full teaching kitchen.

Another feature unique to the campus is a 5,000-square-foot flexible "trades lab" that will host non-credit courses in various construction fields, such as drywall, flooring and masonry, or train students to be forklift operators.

"It will be a flexible space," Plinske said. "Maybe we offer construction in the fall and forklift in the spring. We can literally swap out training programs based on demand – it would be through our continuing education program."

Construction is scheduled to start in the summer. The State Legislature appropriated $11.9 million this year to pay for half of the construction, and the county's legislative delegation has pledged to secure the balance of the funding in 2016.

"We're operating with the hope that we'll receive the funding," Plinske said. "The legislative session this year is early, so we'll know in the spring if we get the funding."


Jeff Mock, vice president of business development for Clancy & Theys, said they plan to open bidding for site preperation subcontractors in March or April and for building construction in May. He and his team of estimators will be poring over the schematic design for the next few weeks to produce a schematic budget.

"I think there definitely are some high goals from the sustainability aspect – I believe we'll achieve a fair amount of that," he said.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.