AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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Charles Hostler Student Center

This photograph shows the upper terrace, pool building and cafe courtyard below.
Photo credit: Paul Crosby Studio


  • Location: Beirut, Lebanon
  • Building type(s): Campus, Recreation, Assembly, Other, Restaurant, Higher education
  • New construction
  • 104,000 ft2 (9,690 m2)
  • Project scope: a single building
  • Urban setting
  • Completed February 2008

The Charles Hostler Student Center on the campus of the American University of Beirut provides a model for environmentally responsive design that meets the social needs of the campus and the larger region. Situated on Beirut's seafront and main public thoroughfare, the new 204,000 ft2 facility houses competitive and recreational athletic facilities for swimming, basketball, handball, volleyball, squash, exercise and weight training. The space also includes an auditorium with associated meeting rooms, cafeteria with study space, and underground parking for 200 cars.

Responding to the scale of the campus' existing buildings and outdoor spaces, the team challenged the University's original plan for a single large-scale building and similarly scaled open plaza. Instead, they proposed multiple building volumes connecting a continuous field of habitable space with gardens on multiple levels. These building volumes are further organized around a network of radial "streets," oriented toward the sea and woven together by a series of courtyards, circulation paths, and spectator areas, negotiating the elevation change from the upper campus to the seafront. To preserve the significant existing landscape, buildings were sited to maintain existing trees. The design for the new Hostler Center synthesizes architecture and landscape to create a set of richly varied and environmentally diverse spaces where people may gather throughout the day and into the evening.

This project was chosen as an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project for 2009. It was submitted by VJAA in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Additional project team members are listed on the "Process" screen.

Environmental Aspects

In traditional Mediterranean cities, the use of urban and architectural space is closely calibrated with the natural environment. Daily human migration throughout the urban environment allows social activities to "condense" at various locations as spaces are exploited for their microclimates – sun or shade, thermal mass with radiant surfaces, and natural ventilation.

Many of the sustainable design strategies used in the project couple these traditional techniques with contemporary technologies. While intended to increase social interaction, all of the strategies also focus on reducing the requirements for energy and water consumption.

The program is organized as a cluster of interior and exterior spaces rather than a single building, allowing the building forms themselves to redistribute air, activity and shade. The east-west orientation of the building forms helps to shade exterior courtyards, reducing the amount of southern exposure. The orientation also directs nighttime breezes and daytime sea breezes to cool outdoor spaces.

Green spaces on the rooftops allow for a more pleasing physical and visual integration with the upper campus, providing usable rooftop areas for activities and reducing the amount of exposure to the sun. Usable program area on the site is increased through shading and ventilation of outdoor spaces.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned and occupied by American University of Beirut, Corporation, nonprofit
  • Typically occupied by 50 people, 40 hours per person per week; and 3,500 visitors per week, 18 hours per visitor per week

The 204,000 ft2 Charles Hostler Student Center includes 100,000 ft2 of unconditioned, underground parking area.


Simulation, Green specifications, Commissioning, Performance measurement and verification, Open space preservation, Indigenous vegetation, Stormwater management, Water harvesting, Drought-tolerant landscaping, Graywater, Wastewater treatment, Massing and orientation, HVAC, Cogeneration, Local materials, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation, Ventilation effectiveness, Thermal comfort

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Last updated: 5/18/2009

Our thanks to the ENERGY STAR program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to the U.S. Department of Energy, and to BuildingGreen, Inc. for hosting the submission and judging forms.

For more information about the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, contact AIA/COTE. For help on how to use this Web site, contact .

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