Tacoma Community College Information Technology Center

Tacoma, WA

Architect: Callison Architecture, Seattle, WA
Engineer: AKB Engineers, Inc., Seattle, WA
General Contractor: Swinerton Builders, San Francisco, CA
Concrete Contractor: Albrecht Birkenbuel, Inc., Snohomish, WA
Total Project Cost: $10 million
Total Project Size: 56,516 sq ft


As the first building executed as part of a 10-year master plan for Tacoma Community College (TCC), the firm designed a building that would meet the following five client goals:

DEFINE A NEW CAMPUS GATEWAY. Adjacent to an upcoming three-story Science Building, the Information Technology Center would define a new front door, and a southern gateway for the entire campus.

FEATURE UNIVERSAL DESIGN. Exceeding American Disability Act (ADA) requirements, that the building and site follow the Universal Accessibility Code, a state standard.

REPLACE CAMPUS LECTURE HALL/INCLUDE INFORMATION COMMONS. The building includes classrooms and learning spaces for both IT students and the general campus population. Students across campus check e-mail and search the Internet at the Information Commons.

PROVIDE SPACE FOR TCC’S GROWING IT DEGREE PROGRAMS. The building’s second and third floors feature state-of-the-art IT Classrooms and labs.

MEET BUDGET AND SCHEDULE GOALS. The original budget was $11 million.


TCC’s 56,516 square foot Information Technology Center transforms the College’s network of the 1960s buildings amid surface parking into a more cohesive, integrated campus. The Information Technology Center also set a precedent for ensuing campus buildings’ designs and site placement.

Originally, Callison Architecture and TCC planned this building for another location just north of its existing site. However, to create a campus gateway and provide a larger location to better accommodate the building’s massing and size requirements, Callison moved the building to its existing site.

Callison and two other architecture firms collaborated with TCC and the State, to work on the master plans first buildings. Miller/Hull designed the Science Building and Schacht Aslani Architects designed the Classroom Administration Building and contributed site-planning by including representatives from both the College and State.

Integrating technological infrastructure within the building was key. Concrete was used as both a structural and finishing material. Since there are no dropped ceilings in the classroom areas and most public spaces, cabling which otherwise would be hidden above the dropped ceiling was left exposed.

To provide visual integrity, Callison provided additional planning and coordination with electrical subcontractors to integrate cables and other information technology infrastructure discreetly throughout the building. Instead of surface mounting the cables, Callison planned for much of the cabling to be sheathed in flexible plastic tubing and integrated within the reinforced concrete structure. Also in some cases, it was integrated within some dropped sheetrock-clad structures that added to the visual diversity of the corridor. Mechanical infrastructure was integrated within a four to five foot wide space along each building corridor.


In working together with Callison, the two other architectural firms working on nearby buildings chose a color palette of green, brick red, and the gray of the concrete to provide the contextual element in the unification of the buildings.


Energy-efficient systems was also a client’s priority. The use of cast-in-place (CIP) concrete assisted the building’s heating and cooling systems. Exposed concrete cools the structure with natural thermal mass, resulting in a more efficient Heating Ventialation Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. Other features included:

  • Additional day lighting via third-story clerestory windows.
  • Natural ventilation with operable windows.
  • Site planning to orient the building with the long East-West axis.
  • Maximum glass at North and South façades.
  • A four pipe hydronic HVAC system.
  • Recycled hardscape products.
  • Certified sustainable wood products.
  • Low-embodied energy materials.
  • Recycled-content flooring.
  • Indigenous, drought-tolerant plantings.


The building follows a common “doubled” configuration of a series of two rolls of classrooms divided by a 10-ft corridor. In following universal accessibility requirements and to provide easy way finding, the building mass was broken up with cross axes. Central stairwells and faculty lounges on all three floors provide convenient floor-to-floor access, and are indented to divide the architectural mass and allow light to penetrate the corridors at their respected midpoints.


Each floor is consistent in that offices are placed south of the main corridor, specialized labs are north of the corridor and the classrooms occupy both north and south areas. Labs include multimedia, programming graphics, and auxiliary support services and secured storage space.

  • 1st floor: Auditorium, Information Commons and Classrooms for general use.
  • 2nd and 3rd floors: IT Classrooms for hands-on approach and learning.


Corridors provide visual interest by alternating materials. One corridor side features a serene concrete shearwall with deep recesses for classroom and offices, and the opposite side has painted sheetrock, wood and an iridescent tile between a grid of concrete columns.


Stairwells are located at the end of each hallway which cuts the length of space students and faculty require to travel to access other floors.


Site-cast reinforced concrete serves as both the structure and the finishing material for the Information Technology Center. Instead of choosing to build with one material and clad with another, reinforced concrete provided an elegant, efficient, aesthetic, and cost-effective solution for the building’s design. The structure provided a dramatic appeal with its concrete ceilings, soffits, columns, and shear wall as well as being offset by warm woods and painted metal.


Callison coordinated with the concrete subcontractor to create mock-up form panels to practice the finishing as well as the alignment of panels for the building. Self-consolidating concrete mixture was specified to ensure smooth panel texture.


Original budgets were estimated at $11 million. The choice of concrete kept costs low because much of it served double duty as a structural and a finishing material. Also, the exposed concrete required no cladding and no painting, saving materials and labor costs. The building’s use of site-cast concrete provides a cost-effective and elegantly simple material focus for the building, the new face of the campus.

The Center’s design was born out of purity of function with innovative use of concrete to achieve multiple functions and elegant simplicity.