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Air Force Academy Center for Character and Leadership Development Breaks Ground

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The Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD), a new building on the campus of the U.S. Air Force Academy, broke ground in mid-October. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), the CCLD is the first new building since 1981 to be erected on the terrazzo (the central square) of Air Force Academy’s campus, which was designed by SOM in 1954 and designated a National Historic Landmark District in 2004. Construction on the CCLD will be complete in early summer 2014.

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“The CCLD asserts itself as a 21st-Century campus icon, while also deferring to the discipline and rigor of the Academy’s original plan,” said Roger Duffy, a design partner at SOM. “We’re excited to be revisiting our work on this significant 20th-Century landmark and contributing to its enduring position in the canon of American architecture.” 


The 46,000-sq-ft building lies on a critical meeting point between secure cadet precincts and portions of the campus open to the public. Sited among existing buildings, including Arnold Hall and the Court of Honor, the CCLD acts as a nexus, weaving together spaces dedicated to cadets, professors, visiting VIPs and the public.

It contains the Forum, a flexible gathering space for academic and social interaction; a series of breakout, conference and seminar rooms; offices; library; ceremonial stair; and the Honor Board Room, where potential violations of the Cadet Honor Code are investigated.

The CCLD has several distinct entrances, each identifiable by a threshold of glass and light. 
The CCLD is in optical alignment with the North Star – Polaris – which the Air Force Academy uses to symbolize its core values. SOM collaborated with an astronomer, Dr. Devin Della-Rose, to ensure Polaris would always be due north of the building at 39° altitude. A cadet seated inside the Honor Board Room will be precisely aligned with Polaris through an opening in the ceiling and the oculus at the top of the 105-ft-tall skylight, regardless of the season or time of day. 
 

Among the CCLD’s goals is leadership in sustainability. As a demonstration of that ambition, the building anticipates LEED-Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. SOM has approached sustainability through the lens of integrated building systems that influence all parts of the building’s design, construction, and operation.

The use of natural ventilation in the skylight, radiant heating and cooling, photovoltaic panels, natural lighting and occupancy sensors help reduce the building’s annual energy consumption by nearly 70% over a code-compliant ASHRAE 90.1-2004 baseline model.

“In 2008, the U.S. Air Force Academy embarked on a bold initiative: develop an iconic architectural concept to symbolically state our commitment to character and leadership development,” said Duane Boyle, deputy director, Directorate of Installations of the U.S. Air Force Academy. “Polaris has long been a navigation tool used to guide the traveler. Likewise, it symbolically relates to one’s own ethical and moral journey through life. SOM’s steel and glass tower aligns with Polaris, sending a powerful message to all that leadership and character development are paramount in all that we do.

“The transparency of the architecture is indicative of the serious nature of its function: the free exchange of thoughts, opinions and knowledge in an open environment. Our new center places the Academy at the pinnacle of character and leadership development nationally and will spark the interest of all who believe that our nation’s future is based on thoughtful, careful, and meaningful decisions of our leadership, both military and civilian,” Boyle said.

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