UNC Greensboro Nursing & Instructional Building

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Nursing & Instructional Building


UNC Greensboro’s new 180,000 SF Nursing & Instructional Building is tailor-made to support the wide variety of instructional modalities required for an intensive, hands-on nursing, health sciences, and sciences education.

Designed by LS3P in association with SmithGroup, the building provides state-of-the-art simulation, research, and classroom space for UNCG’s School of Nursing, the School of Health and Human Sciences, and the College of Arts and Sciences. This diverse community of learners - from general education courses through advanced degree programs - comes together in a place designed for collaboration and inspiration.


Several key goals drove the design. The new building needed to anchor the campus STEM corridor and provide innovative high-tech teaching tools to prepare students for practice. The health and wellness of the students and staff were also a high priority; in this highly engaged, diligent community of learners, students spend most of their time near their classrooms and labs, and the building needed to provide opportunities for connection, physical activity, and wellness.


The site provided excellent opportunities to enhance campus pedestrian connectivity, accessibility, and vehicular circulation around and through a highly visible site, the former home of the 1960 McIver Building and adjacent to the 1898 Foust Building. The project also allowed for a much more efficient, flexible use of campus space as it consolidated nursing program areas previously scattered across multiple buildings into a new home for the School of Nursing.

Campus circulation guided the form; a major pedestrian path leads to and through the building, knitting it into the campus fabric. Inside, a fivestory atrium is a continuation of the pedestrian experience with a dynamic light-filled volume. One bar of the building holds nursing programs, while another holds science laboratories. The bars are connected across the atrium through a series of stairs and bridges.


The complex program features 39 learning labs and 14 classrooms, including eight high-tech simulation (SIM) labs which mimic a variety of healthcare settings. The SIM labs feature hospital beds complete with headwalls, labor and delivery units, clinical exam rooms, and apartments reflecting home health settings. An anatomage lab holds a digital table with a virtual patient; students can interact with the 3-D imagery to study layers of anatomy within a digital human body. A dedicated community engagement center holds additional SIM labs and is designed to welcome the community for clinical services and events for interprofessional education.


Outside, the materials palette of brick, glass, and zinc-colored metal panels complements the campus aesthetic, maintaining the University’s identity and working with the campus design guidelines while also projecting a contemporary sensibility befitting the sciences curricula inside. The unique site in the heart of its campus neighborhood means that the building has no “back,” and the team conducted elevation studies to pay homage to the existing rhythms of its historic neighbors in the design of the facades. The five-story scale is large compared to adjacent buildings, but the design works with the 20’ grade change across the site to break down the massing through siting, detailing, and materials.


Inside, the building exudes the culture of the dedicated students, faculty, and staff who inhabit the space. The five-story atrium allows visual connections between floors, while active stairwells animate the volume between floors to encourage physical activity during the academic day. The occupiable stair anchors the voluminous space, with warm wood and built-in seating for study and gathering. A skylight brings natural light deep into the atrium. Throughout, nooks for study and collaboration provide options for a variety of group sizes and functions. Biophilic elements help to continue the feel of the tree-lined pedestrian path of the building through the atrium. Expansive views, nature-inspired accent colors, and natural light maintain a strong connection with the outdoors.


Flexibility and transparency are hallmarks of the learning spaces. Three large active learning classrooms accommodate up to 60 people, and the 140-person classroom converts easily from a lecture-based setup to an active learning mode. The learning labs are open and welcoming; science and learning are on full display. An outdoor classroom spills out of the conference room and community engagement center, extending those areas and further blurring the boundaries between inside and outside. A roof patio provides additional outdoor access; all nursing spaces have windows, and clerestories in the nursing SIM labs bring natural light into clinical areas.



The site presented a fantastic opportunity to reimagine campus circulation, and the building is woven into the campus through a re-imagined network of pedestrian connections in and through the building to create a destination and community anchor for its active campus precinct.

In addition to consolidating nursing programs which were previously scattered across four buildings and making operations more efficient, the project welcomes a multidisciplinary cohort of nursing students, science students, and liberal arts students exploring science coursework through engaged, experiential learning. The vibrant and collaborative atrium space is unique within the campus community, and welcomes all students for gathering, rest, and study.


The design encourages an active pedestrian environment within its campus neighborhood. The building itself serves as a pedestrian connector via a grand internal stair between two campus nodes to improve campus circulation as an inviting pathway leads to, and through, the building. The landscape design provides enticing accessible routes through this area of campus which were formerly lacking due to the grade change, and the building is now easily accessible by multiple modes of transportation including shuttle bus, car share program, bikes, and pedestrian paths.

The learning environments are designed to promote collaboration and interaction between all members of the campus community with informal, flexible gathering and study spaces for a variety of group sizes and activities. The program also provides space for research and relationship building with the wider community through a shared community engagement center. This flexible, adaptable space is shared between the Schools of Nursing and Health and Human Sciences, and features SIM labs and exam rooms which can be used for community health initiatives. Community connection, support, and investment are central to equitable design; this building will support the University in its goals of engaging meaningfully with the community, on campus and beyond.






Good design mutually benefits human and nonhuman inhabitants.


The design features native North Carolina plants which thrive on hot, humid summers and require minimal water. Sourwood, witch hazel, corn, beans, and native grasses are all local to the area and provide both habitat and visual interest. An outdoor classroom helps to connect students to their environment, and the building footprint strategically preserves critical root zones for nearby existing campus trees.

A rainwater garden serves as a bioretention system at the building’s north entrance, creating a beautiful view while managing and filtering stormwater onsite. Permeable pavers further reduce site runoff. Low-flow fixtures help to reduce building water use, and native and drought-tolerant plantings require no permanent irrigation. The project included a new chiller, which contributes to a significant reduction in campus electrical/chilled water use. Overall, the design reduces potable water use by 30%.



Consolidating the nursing program which was previously scattered across multiple campus buildings allows much better efficiency for faculty, staff, and students by streamlining workflows and creating a cohesive community within the building. The flexible interiors can accommodate a variety of teaching and learning modes, such as the classrooms that adapt easily to both active learning and lectures. This flexibility will allow the building’s uses to evolve over time to accommodate changes in technology, pedagogy, or use. Systems with a ten-year payback were selected to balance first cost and long-term operational expenses, and the team focused on right-sizing equipment and automating building systems to respond to occupancy.


From the beginning, the entire team acknowledged that all entities had a shared responsibility for meeting the energy targets defined by UNCG’s Climate Action Plan. The building features UNCG’s first campus photovoltaic panel arrays, which have a 23 kW capacity and generate renewable energy equivalent to 2.3% of the building’s energy costs. The design reduces energy loads through passive solar design; early-stage shoebox energy models helped identify the right building orientation, while wall/window ratio and daylighting studies informed glazing options. Strategic overhangs, sunshades, and low E glazing minimize solar heat gain and glare. LED lights and occupancy sensors reduce lighting loads.

The building’s lab functions posed challenges in HVAC design with the need for fume hoods and 100% outside air for safety. The high performance mechanical system was designed to support this function with variable-volume lab exhaust with high velocity plume exhaust fans and lab

air handling units with economizer and energy recovery. Nursing areas feature dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS) and active chilled beams. HVAC systems include heat recovery systems, through which exhausted energy will enter an energy recovery wheel to be preconditioned; and runaround heat pipes, which are used to preheat the exhausted air. The result was a 22.1% energy cost savings over LEED 90.1-2010 baseline.

Additionally, the parking lot is home to UNCG’s first solar electric vehicle charging stations, and alternative-fuel stations comprise 3.85% of the total parking. The design also reduces the heat index effect through specifying materials with a solar reflectivity index (SRI) of at least 20, and through a low-slope, high albedo roof to reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat than a traditional dark roof.



The design aims to support and encourage wellness for all who use the facility. The building encourages activity with attractive stairways running through the atrium, including the occupiable stair with integrated seating and gathering space. New active pedestrian routes to and through the building make it pleasant and easy to connect with other parts of the campus and community on foot.

Materials, colors, and abundant daylight help to “bring the outside in” and keep students connected with nature. The skylit five-story atrium running through the middle of the building creates a lively, open, light-filled space, and curtainwall expanses at the common areas, open study spaces, and offices maximize daylighting and views.

The classrooms and labs also feature abundant natural light for better learning and wellness, a major improvement over the former windowless classrooms being replaced. Blues, greens, and warm wood accents inspired by biophilic design create a symbolic connection between the outdoor pedestrian paths and the dynamic atrium. CO2 sensors in densely occupied spaces help to maximize indoor environmental quality, and materials, furnishings, and finishes were specified with air quality and wellness in mind.



Roof pavers were made from recycled materials, and local materials were specified wherever possible to reduce transportation and the carbon footprint. The building achieved a 22% target for local materials and diverted 98% of construction materials from landfills.

The design also salvaged a midcentury-era mural by celebrated artist Joseph Cox which originally hung on the exterior of the 1960 McIver Building. The team was able to save the metal panels during the exterior demolition, and the artwork now resides in a new configuration inside the new building facing the same direction. Preserving this important piece of University culture and pride helped to root the new building into the campus.





The multipurpose, adaptable design will allow the building to evolve as needs change. Flexible classrooms can be quickly converted from active learning to lecture mode, and the openness of the design will accommodate changes in function, pedagogy, or technology over time. Two pairs of multipurpose meeting rooms have operable partitions for maximum flexibility.




The building is intended to be a “living laboratory” used as a teaching opportunity for faculty, students, and staff. The design process included a sustainable design workshop for stakeholders to define the vision and build consensus for sustainable design strategies, and the building serves as a campus model showcasing the University’s sustainability goals.

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