A new academic building on the campus of Trinity University, a small liberal arts college in San Antonio, is one of Texas’s first completed cross-laminated timber structures and the first mass timber structure in a higher education setting in the second-most populous Texan city. Dicke Hall will house the University’s English and Religion departments and serve as the gateway to Trinity’s Business and Humanities District. The 40,000-square-foot facility, designed by San Antonio’s own Lake|Flato Architects, houses six classrooms, one large lecture hall, a screening room, and multiple collaborative spaces for students in a carefully designed and sustainable building.
Dicke Hall is the first installment of the Chapman-Halsell-Dicke Complex, which is the largest construction project to take place at the university to date. Over the past decade, Trinity has risen steadily in regional and national college rankings thanks to its sizable endowment and 10-year strategic growth plan titled Trinity Tomorrow. The lecture hall is named after Jim and Janet Dicke, members of Trinity’s board of trustees and alumni of the university. Jim Dicke is the chief executive officer of Crown Equipment Corporation, one of the largest manufacturers of industrial forklift equipment in the world. The building’s grand opening on September 23 was attended by Ron Nirenburg, San Antonio’s mayor and an alumnus of Trinity University.
Comprised of large floor-to-ceiling windows supported by exposed timber beams, Dicke Hall’s minimal modern design complements the campus’s original red-brick midcentury architecture designed by O’Neil Ford in the late 1940s. Ford designed buildings for college campuses across Texas, including the University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Dallas, and Texas Woman’s University. Ford’s most iconic project, the Tower of the Americas in downtown San Antonio, is based off of Murchison Tower, a 166-foot tower he designed for the Trinity University campus.
The founders of Lake|Flato were mentored by Ford and incorporated his forward-thinking, sustainable practices into the building design. The firm is no stranger to mass timber structures in the state of Texas. Its SOTO office building was named the first mass timber structure in Texas and its Hotel Magdalena in Austin was the first mass timber boutique hotel in North America.
“The gateway to the new Business and Humanities District, Dicke Hall establishes a significant urban edge to campus, bridging town and gown and creating a welcoming portal to the broader San Antonio community. The craft of the building’s mass timber structure pays homage to the campus’s mid-century modern design heritage while expressing the university’s forward-looking commitment to innovation in liberal arts education and environmental stewardship,” the University stated in a project description.
Dicke Hall features the latest developments in green technology by using mass timber instead of steel or concrete. In doing so, the architects dramatically reduced not only the project’s cost, but also its greenhouse gas emissions. According to the university, the carbon sequestered by the timber building amounts to 374 acres of forest. Other green solutions include a rooftop photovoltaic array capable of generating 78 percent of the building’s energy. Similarly, hydrology systems within the structure collects and reuses the condensate water for toilet water and for irrigation. The exterior courtyard is landscaped with drought-resistant grass and native flora to improve water efficiency. Pavers and drought-resistant native plantings improve water efficiency around the campus, decreasing the amount of landscaping that regularly requires watering.
The building has also been designed to be free of volatile organic compounds and 98 percent of its occupied space has access to natural light, which also contributes to the building’s energy efficiency while also connecting its inhabitants with the natural environment.