West-MEC: Multiple Campuses

  • Client

    • Western Maricopa Education Center
  • Project Type

A history of West-MEC
More than any other school type, career and technical education (CTE) facilities have the potential to reach deep into a community, encouraging unique partnerships both in education and industry, and positively stimulating local economies. In Phoenix, Ariz., the introduction of a robust CTE program has elevated the local workforce and equipped individuals with the skills and training necessary for local careers.

A melting pot of community and member districts...

The challenge
For the past two decades, Phoenix West Valley business and industry leaders expressed concerns about the lack of trained workforce. They believed public schools were dismissing career readiness by limiting vocational education opportunities, and were placing more emphasis on college ready courses and training.

The solution
In 2003, business and industry leaders in Maricopa County, Ariz., united to create the Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC), a partnership between 12 school Districts, business and industry partners, and a governing board in Maricopa County.

Life-long learning
West-MEC supports the partnership between education, industry and community. In addition to serving high school students, West-MEC facilities accommodate evening adult education, training and industry certification programs which fulfill the District’s commitment to life-long learners.

“Companies are looking for solid workers who can think, problem solve and understand how things work. And, participate in their company and communities. So, they need an educated workforce, but they need a trained workforce to perform the skills they need.”
– Greg Donovan, Superintendent, West-MEC

At the onset of the first project, the District challenged DLR Group to design inviting, colorful facilities that welcome patrons and become the pride of the community. In response, our designs incorporate West-MEC’s brand and reflect their professional, state-of-the-art programs. Bold orange accents and signage highlight West-MEC’s brand. Buildings are situated close to the road, with parking located in the rear of the sites. This positioning, coupled with abundant windows, allows for full visibility into the facilities to showcase active learning occurring inside.

The buildings don’t only serve as a shell to learn, they are tools in the learning process. Open and exposed ceilings allow teachers and students to experience up close the infrastructure of a facility. From technology to concrete, architectural aspects are used as teaching models.

Facility Planning 
In the planning stages of each facility, DLR Group collaborated with a variety of individuals and professionals to design facilities that respond to specific curriculum. Industry professionals worked together to create facilities where form followed function. The planning process included a variety of coordination meetings for the following factors of development:

  • Technical Design
  • Equipment Needs/Requirements
  • Business and Industry Needs
  • Suppliers
  • Tours of various other CTE/STEM programs

Energy efficient solutions include:

Water: High efficiency water fixtures and plumbing design, indigenous landscaping, and rainwater harvesting all help the District conserve water.

Electricity: High efficiency mechanical systems and controls, light fixtures, and building systems lend to reduced demands on the grid.

Solar: Photovoltaics are placed throughout each campus as energy producing parking canopies, rooftop systems, and campus-wide building and shade structures.

Building Placement: Careful placement of campus buildings and  high performance building envelopes reduce demands on heating/cooling systems and help provide adequate daylighting for learning environments.

Windows: An abundance of windows and skylights provide ample daylighting into the learning environments reducing the demands for electric lighting and promoting the District’s approach to transparency in the classrooms.

Shade: Landscaping, and building/photovoltaic canopies all provide a comfortable shaded micro-climate.

About Central Campus
DLR Group’s 2010 design of the West-MEC Central Campus – Aviation building provides a dynamic specialty training center for high school and adult students seeking future careers in aviation. The facility supports a program consistent of up to 1,900 hours of instruction in general, air frame, power plant, and avionics as prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration. It has a capacity to handle up to 100 enrollees per week. To emphasize its role as a Federal Aviation Administration training center, the design features striping, as found on an airport tarmac, running from the parking lot through the lobby and into the teaching environment. Dramatic super graphics are placed along this path to enhance the wayfinding experience.

Due to high visibility from Glendale Avenue, the metal building’s bold gesture responds to movement and the unique vernacular of adjacent facilities. The fluid movement in the façade is similar to aircraft’s geometry by applying references to the wing profile design and therefore acting as inspiration to the learning environment.

The architecture comprises a new 47,000 SF pre-engineered metal structure-the Aviation Center-consisting of classrooms, administrative offices, training areas, and workspace. Creative use of material and systems coupled with the economies of a pre-engineered metal building resulted in cost-effective construction. The metal building serves well the need for clear span for an aircraft hangar.

In addition to the Aviation Center, there are also two other buildings on campus. A 38,000 SF (Building B) precision manufacturing and welding technology building and a 20,000 SF (Building C) support building/warehouse. The West-MEC Central Campus-Building B, consists of a new 37,967 SF two-story building. There are administrative offices and classrooms, along with indoor and outdoor industrial labs, CNC, Welding, Pre-Engineering and Avionics. A large assembly space known as the Demonstration Lab provides a space for industry and educational partners to collaborate and gather.

Central Campus Programs Include: Aviation Maintenance Technology, Avionics/Electronics, Precision Manufacturing and Welding Technology
Campus Size:  7.48 Acres
Total Campus Building Square Footage: 95,769

About Northeast Campus
The project, which included renovating three existing buildings and adding two new buildings totaling 23,000 SF and 17,000 SF, required working closely with vested industry players in the design process to plan for spaces that addressed the needs of their industry as well as the needs for meeting high school requirement. Heavy-duty spaces for hands-on learning, such as automotive collision technology and construction technology are balanced and shared with classroom-lab spaces for presentations and events with industry partners.

Filling out the campus pathways is a veterinarian program with lab space, animal holding rooms, surgery and waiting rooms, all included in the new 23,000 SF building located at the eastern perimeter of the site.

Northeast Campus Programs Include: Automotive Collision Technology, Automotive Technology, General Construction Technology, Climate Control Technician, Medical Assisting, Medical Information Systems, Pharmacy Technician, Veterinary Sciences
Campus Size: 9.85 Acres 
Total Campus Building Square Footage: 124,171

About Southwest Campus
The 2016 West-MEC Southwest Campus began a first-of-its-kind innovative partnership between a public utility-APS Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station; Estrella Mountain Community College; and West-MEC. The primary goal of this triumvirate of industry, higher education and secondary education is to encourage and provide a pathway into the nuclear power industry and augment an aging workforce. What is truly unique is that high school students, college students and adults will earn college credit and experience hand’s-on learning from faculty who are also senior operation staff with the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. 

This integrated approach to learning simply does not exist in the United States – until now.

“Working with DLR Group was a great experience! DLR Group valued the input from industry partners on the school design and worked to incorporate this input into the building design.”
– Rickie Timmons, Palo Verde Senior Nuclear Instructor

This innovative opportunity to blend the resources of three distinctly different organizations necessitated a new campus to meet an industry demand for workforce training. The highly structured learning approach utilizes four basic tenants; classroom instruction, hand’s on learning, career-based experience and leadership development directly shaped the campus plan. Arizona Public Service, Estrella Mountain Community College and West-MEC will share curriculum development, instruction responsibilities and campus facilities.

The goal of the campus is student success and graduating engaged and prosperous citizens to enrich their respective West Valley communities. The ‘National Energy Grid’ is the inspiration for the campus physical plan and is symbolic of a didactic educational curriculum. The photovoltaic canopy becomes a tool to teach students about renewable energy systems. A truly unique feature of the Southwest Energy Partners Campus is the incorporation of a fully functioning industry flow loop as an integral part of the educational experience. The flow loop, which was provided by and will be maintained by industry partners, is a key component of energy production infrastructure.

The iconic architectural character of the photovoltaic canopy reflects the school district’s brand and vision to express sustainable energy strategies to the public; this functional design element organizes and unifies the campus master plan, and provides a framework for future phases of construction. The high-bay canopy is composed of solar panels that provide filtered shade for outdoor learning. Flexible high-bay learning labs and teaching spaces within the buildings will be shared by all three organizations and provide a collaborative learning environment for experimentation and exploration.

“The partnership between West-MEC, Estrella Mountain Community College, and Palo Verde is an example of linking our educational systems and industry to provide opportunities to help students be successful. It is critical that we continue working together to form programs and pathways that help prepare a talent pipeline that meets business and industry needs.”
- Heather Weber, Dean of Occupational Education, Estrella Mountain Community College

The West-MEC Southwest Campus project includes several phases of construction. Phase I included the Student Services Building and Sustainable Energy Building, totaling 77,850 SF of building and photovoltaic solar panels canopies. The Sustainable Energy Building consists of labs, classroom, and administrative spaces. 

The second phase, the Industrial Technology Building, consists of labs, classrooms, and administrative spaces. The STEM + Veterinary Science Building, an approximately 20,000 SF facility which features a fully function prep and surgical suite for the veterinary program, with a licensed veterinarian on site, indoor play rooms for dogs, with indoor dog kennel with quick access to the exterior dog runs and a facility for large equine animals is currently under construction. The capstone for the overall site development is the Off-grid building, conceptualized to serve as an exhibition space for hands-on, energy-related concepts and a Building ‘X’: NEX–next energy eXperience. This component, which is located prominently at the entrance to the site from Verrado Way, is anticipated to open in 2019.

Southwest Campus Programs Include: Medical Assisting, Health Sciences; Dental Assisting; Cosmetology; Veterinary Sciences; Bio Sciences; Welding; Construction Trades; STEM/Robotics; Flow Loop; Electrical and Mechanical Instrumentation and Controls (Future Pathways Include: Auto Tech/Diesel)
Campus Size: 17 Acres
Total Campus Building Square Footage: 211,163

“Everyone needs continuing education. Everyone will continue to be educated throughout their career and life. But we have to bring relevance to that education, it has to take the student in some direction and ultimately put them on a pathway so they may become participating and contributing citizens.”
– Greg Donovan, Superintendent, West-MEC

Awards & Recognition

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  • Arizona Public Service 2017 Energy Award

    2017 AIA Arizona Design Award

West-MEC: Multiple Campuses

Western Maricopa Education Center