A United Home for Public Health
A new center connects students and leaders to address global health

The site connects to the city’s public transportation network, ensuring students and faculty accessibility to the new facility. The building also serves a very active cycling community, and a Capital Bikeshare station has recently been installed. 

stacked classrooms  
To accommodate a range of class sizes within the irregularly shaped learning wing, classrooms stack in an alternating pattern. The leftover spaces between them serve as areas for informal learning and social interaction.

1        Auditorium
2        Lower Lobby
3        Convening
4        Case Study

5        Classroom
6        Open Study
7        Lounge
8        Open Office

9       Enclosed Office
10     Exercise Science
11      Gallery
12      Plante

13     Mechanical
14     Arcade
15     Future Fit-Out

desirable Student spaces
An irresistible, sky-lit stair ascends all eight levels, encouraging physical activity and the floor openings permit an expansive array of views throughout the building. To take optimal advantage of the view, formal learning spaces sit slightly back from the glazed main facade, creating a zone of informal study areas.

MULTIPLE Pedagogies
Interior windows connect classrooms with the larger academic environment. A stepped case study method room with rows of fixed tables supports both traditional forward-facing instruction and small group break-out work.


energy reduction from the code

reduction in lighting power density

reduction in building water usage


of the roof area
is vegetated

reduction in stormwater run-off

of occupants use public transit, cycle or walk

George Washington University
Milken Institute School of Public Health

Washington, DC / United States


161,100 GSF

School of Public Health

LEED-NC v2009 Platinum Certified

Located on Washington Circle just a few blocks from the White House, this new signature building for the Milken Institute School of Public Health houses leaders from across the public and private health policy sectors. The building provides a centralized home for the university’s multidisciplinary public health endeavors and serves as a critical forum where experts address today’s most pressing global health issues.

The design team faced a number of challenges with this project. First, the program called for academic and administration offices, 15 general purpose active learning classrooms ranging in size from 20 to 75 seats, three auditoriums, a convening center with four meeting rooms and retractable walls for flexibility, and numerous student study, lounge and kitchenette spaces. A suite of laboratories and multipurpose spaces for the school’s exercise science department was also required. Previously, these functions were scattered in multiple spaces across the university’s urban campus. This building needed to gather these diverse elements in a central place that all members of the public health community—including faculty from the medical, social and geopolitical realms—could call home.

Second, the triangular site presented a unique architectural and environmental challenge. The design needed to accommodate the program on this awkwardly configured site without disconnecting occupants from daylight, air and views.

Planning for the building involved the active participation of students, faculty and administrators from the outset. While the required programmatic elements would have fit on six above grade floors, the design team compressed the floor-to-floor height to create seven floors within the allowable zoning envelope. This enabled expansive voids on each level, drawing daylight, air and views into a sky-lit atrium at the building’s center. An open stair ascends all eight levels, allowing an array of views throughout the building. In addition, the stair reduces the power consumption associated with operation of the elevators, which are screened from view, while promoting exercise, physical activity and social interaction.

To address the building’s site configuration, the design teams employed a spare palette of repetitive façade elements—vertical terracotta rainscreen panels, metal trim bands and sunscreens and transparent glass—to customize each of the building’s facades to the idiosyncrasies of its orientation, microenvironment and urban context. Located just a block from a busy metro rail station, the site supports heavy foot traffic and allows occupants easy access the city’s public transportation network. Of the building’s occupants, 78% use public transit, walk or cycle to the building. Shower facilities on the lower level accommodate bicycle commuters, and the building also includes a Capital Bikeshare station.

Sustainable Strategies
A combination of sustainable strategies, including right-sized and high efficiency mechanical equipment as well as a high performance building envelope, achieves a 64% improvement for total energy cost savings over the ASHRAE baseline, an Energy Use Index (EUI) of 67 kBtu/SF, 18 of the 19 available LEED points for Optimizing Energy Performance, and a LEED Platinum Certification.

In association with Ayers Saint Gross.
Photography: © Robert Benson Photography

James H. Collins, Jr., FAIA, LEED AP

Arlen Li, AIA, LEED AP
Project Manager

Peter F. Vieira, AIA, LEED AP
Project Architect