NOVA’s Higher Education Center Engages Students

STERLING, Va. — A grand opening ceremony was held for the new Higher Education Center at North Virginia Community College’s (NOVA) Loudon Campus in Sterling on Sept. 24. The three-story building was designed to foster collaboration and help establish the school as a forward-looking institution that produces a globally competitive workforce.

At the ceremony, Scott Ralls, the college’s new president, said that the plan for the Higher Education Center is to eventually house university classes. “Students can walk across the bridge and be able to complete a bachelor’s degree through a four-year institution without having to leave the campus, without having to leave Loudoun County,” he said at the ceremony. “The vital role that community colleges play is to create pathways — pathways to dreams for our students. For so many, that’s a pathway to universities, and that’s the theme of this building.”

Designed by Perkins Eastman, with offices in Washington, D.C., the 40,000-square-foot building was planned for science, technology and the arts while also featuring space for general classroom education and multipurpose gatherings. As such, it is designed to engage students academically technologically and socially. The facility features classrooms, common areas, a multipurpose room and office space as well as a sound-isolated recording studio with a control room. Advanced telecommunications capabilities also help the Loudon Campus connect with other NOVA partner universities.

The $11.7 million building is a three-story, steel frame structure with a glass curtainwall, while the remaining façade is brick and stone veneer with metal wall panels. A cantilevered second floor extends over the campus pond and features a walkway across the water to connect the building with the Learning Commons Complex.

The project is targeting LEED Silver certification. Construction included temporary, partial drainage of the pond for building footings, retaining walls, landscape and hardscape improvements. Building systems included an 80-well geothermal field and other energy-conserving systems. Washington, D.C.-based Sigal Construction Corporation managed the project.

“The vision for the HEC was created by a cross-campus team of faculty and staff who worked many hours with the design team from Perkins Eastman. Every detail, down to the selection of furnishings, has been planned with great care,” Dr. Julie Leidig, provost of the Loudoun Campus, wrote in the program for the grand opening. “The contemporary learning technologies allow students to maximize learning, individually or in groups. The light, airy spaces take advantage of Loudoun County’s natural beauty. The construction team from Sigal took great care while building the project on an active campus. Our students, staff, and faculty take great pride in their new surroundings.”

The new building is part of a larger expansion planned for the 11,000-student campus. The second phase of the Higher Education Center will add another 63,000 square feet of space that would serve as a means for the school to partner with Virginia universities and offer students the ability to complete a bachelor’s degree, according to Leesburg Today.

In addition to university partnerships, the college is also known for its partnerships with local K-12 school divisions, and it recently agreed to drop tuition fees for high school students to earn college credit through dual-enrollment courses, reported Leesburg Today.