Early Learning and Job Training Center
Award Winner: LEED Platinum Status Building, U.S. Green Building Council; 2015 Engineering Excellence Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Montana (ACEC MT), Building Technology Systems Category; and the 2014 Montana Sustainable Building Award, Commercial Category.
Sitting in the middle of Montana’s capital city is a collection of buildings that look similar in size and structure. They are sandwiched between a busy four-lane street and a large high school campus. Several fast-food restaurants, grocery stores and tire shops are about a block away. Welcome to the Helena Housing Authority’s (HHA) Stewart Homes campus.
HHA is a non-profit agency established by federal and state legislation to provide safe and affordable housing and related services to eligible, low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled. With 336 units of public housing, it is the largest landlord in Helena, and Stewart Homes houses its greatest concentration of residents. The campus also happens to be home to HHA’s Early Learning Center and Job Training Facility (ELC/JCT).
In May 2011, HHA was awarded a highly competitive federal grant by HUD (one of only ten nationwide) for an innovative education housing project. The new facility includes two early childhood education classrooms, a kitchen to serve meals to the children, an adult education classroom and two administrative offices.
Being mindful of HHA’s tight budget constraints, the design team of Intrinsik Architecture and Morrison-Maierle, were challenged to develop cost-effective solutions that were also user-centered. As a result, Morrison-Maierle’s engineering solutions for this project ended up being environmentally responsible as well, which led to this project being awarded with LEED Platinum status. This project is unique because the end result was not necessarily to achieve LEED Platinum status, but to create a facility that helps teachers serve their students in a good learning environment. However, the decisions made by Morrison-Maierle show that sound engineering decisions can be not only good for the client, but good for the environment as well.