Bowie State’s New Center Touts Massive Glass Curtain Wall

By Jessie Fetterling

BOWIE, Md. — The new Center for Natural Science, Mathematics and Nursing (CNSMN) finally made its debut at Bowie State University earlier this month. The 149,000-square-foot building’s biggest claim to fame is the massive, 25,000 square feet of electochromic glass installed on portions of the curtain wall façade and throughout the three-story multipurpose space, dubbed “The Beacon.”

In partnership with the University of Maryland Service Center; the Washington, D.C., office of Perkins+Will; and Bethesda, Md.-headquartered Clark Construction Group, Minneapolis-based SageGlass installed the dynamic glass to help control sunlight to optimize daylight and outdoor views while preventing glare, fading and overheating in an effort to achieve maximum comfort levels inside. The smart-glass technology allows the windows to change from clear to tinted to almost cloudy based on circumstances such as weather or time of day. It lowers heating and cooling costs as well as gives building occupants unobstructed access to light and outdoor views.

The 149,000-square-foot CNSMN’s biggest claim to fame is the massive, 25,000 square feet of electochromic glass installed on portions of the curtain wall façade.

“We believe that providing students with a daylit environment, free from heat gain and glare, is essential to ensuring strong academic performance,” said Alan McLenaghan, CEO of SageGlass, in a statement. “By utilizing SageGlass at the new Center for Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Nursing to create a more comfortable learning and collaboration space for students, Bowie State is demonstrating its continued commitment to the success of its students.”

While the glass tints on-demand, it also allows occupants to customize solar controls via light standards. An added cost upfront, the glazing also makes it so the new facility requires neither window shades nor blinds and helps save on future utility bills by dramatically reducing the building’s energy demand.

The $102 million facility consolidates the university’s Departments of Natural Sciences, Nursing and Mathematics in an effort to create a transformative educational experience, according to Paul Harney, senior project manager for Perkins+Will, per the firm’s website. It features 23 hands-on team-based research and instructional labs, five active learning classrooms and three complete nursing simulation suites, The Beacon multipurpose space and a natural sciences greenhouse to foster collaboration across academic programs and to support the university’s strategic initiative to enhance teaching in the sciences and cutting-edge research. The center’s new nursing suites will increase the university’s capacity to enroll nursing students.

The design — which is expected to achieve LEED Gold — allows for a cross-disciplinary connection, and its transparency welcomes competition and career preparation. The Beacon especially promotes the philosophy of “learning on display” with massive glass walls that allow students to watch each other at work.

The Perkins+Will team designed the new CNSMN building based on three ideas: Arise, Advance and Amplify, according to the firm’s website. Arise emphasizes a call to action to rise to the occasion and embrace challenges; Advance speaks to teaching and learning, growth, progress and the future; and Amplify is about giving voice, making an impact, changing and giving back.

“The state-of-the-art Center for Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Nursing will catalyze Bowie State University’s efforts to expand the use of collaborative hands-on teaching models and continue to position the University at the leading edge of innovation in STEM education and undergraduate research,” said Bowie State University President Mickey L. Burnim in a statement. “Its innovative design provides an optimal learning environment for students and faculty to engage in transformational interdisciplinary learning and instruction.”