Walter Robbs, the Winston-Salem designer firm behind UNCG’s Kaplan Center for Wellness, was awarded the North Carolina State Building Commission Excellence in Design Award at the Annual State Construction Conference.
This award was not applied for by Kaplan Center staff, but was instead an in-house nomination by the NC State Department. The judgement was made from photos and design schematics taken for the nomination.
Project Architect Steve Ulp credited several key design categories with the building’s success, such as project management, design innovations, natural lighting, documents quality, energy efficiency, sustainability, integrated architecture and engineering, construction administration, schedule, and budget.
“The building has that WOW factor as soon as you walk in the door,” Ulp said. “That is what grabs your attention, the openness, the materials and the natural day lighting.”
Ulp also credited the Center’s open-space design in part for its success, saying that a welcoming architecture was key.
“The fact that you can walk down ‘Main Street’ and see so much activity on either side is very stimulating and energetic,” Ulp said. “All spaces are easily accessible vertically and horizontally. The fact that the whole construction process went extremely smoothly along with the WOW factor that was created are all reasons that we think the building was recognized with this award by The State Building Commission.”
Kaplan Center Director Jill Beville concurred, also crediting the win to the gym’s varied design, unique features, and strong presence. She also opined that the building’s size was a component, and its focus on varied usage.
“There are a lot of unique features that make the building interesting to look at,” Beville said. “Architecturally, I think it’s a very nice building; I think it’s a strong presence on West Gate City Boulevard.”
The Kaplan Center’s sustainability aspect includes an emphasis on natural lighting, low-flow water in restrooms, energy-efficient lighting, and a bioretention field behind the gym.
The gym was designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification, a status determined by “points” awarded for environmental consideration in design and human impact awareness.
Representatives from other universities have also commented positively on the Center, which has been opened for tours for others considering a similar gym design. Ulp also stated that the Center had been a deciding factor in university choice by some incoming students.
“Other schools that have read about or toured it have only compliments to say about it,” Ulp said. “Our hope is that they will contact our Design Team when they are ready to build their new facility.”
“[The gym] will make the Design and Construction Industry in our area aware of the capabilities of the local talented and professional firms that are right here in the Triad,” Ulp said.
Beville stated that student reception to the Kaplan Center has been generally positive. The staff seeks feedback via surveys, program evaluations, focus groups, and a suggestion box. Staff continues to source input from students and faculty for future programming.
“It’s a matter of figuring out what to do with [the gym’s] spaces,” Beville said. “It’s expanding and dialing in on what we’re doing, making sure we’re meeting the wishes and the wants and the needs of the students.”
“The students love [the Kaplan Center],” Ulp said. “They have needed a new facility for many years and their patience has paid off. The community has also embraced it.”
The Center has incorporated feedback into Center developments, such as equipment addition suggestions, group exercise incorporation, and family hour adjustments.
The Kaplan Center was also recognized by the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) with the Outstanding Sports Facilities Award earlier this year.