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Mesa Community College Student Services Center

ARCHITECTS hanna gabriel wells


San Diego Community College District

Project Status


Year Completed


Certifications and Designations

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Project Description

Built into a 50-foot hillside, the new Mesa Community College Student Services Center in San Diego incorporates PPG coatings and glass to help seamlessly integrate both the local landscape and 16 different academic departments into its open, airy and energy-efficient 85,000-square-foot space.

Designed by the award-winning firm ARCHITECTS hanna gabriel wells to earn LEED® Gold certification, the center features a series of terraced interior and exterior spaces that function as communal gathering hubs. An open four-story atrium adds wayfinding visibility and fosters interaction among students, faculty and administrators, as well as the school’s academic departments.

Duranar fluoropolymer coatings and Solarban solar control low-e glass manufactured by PPG are vital to the center’s performance, functionality and contemporary design.

Architect Jim Gabriel said panels made from aluminum and stainless steel were selected for the building’s exterior because of their versatility, durability and ability to blend in with the school’s natural surroundings.

“Metal has the advantage of being able to be fabricated into numerous configurations and detail sets,” he explained. “This allows the design team to develop building skins with confidence, knowing that the chosen materials would be able to meet the needs of performance and design.”

Gabriel’s team specified Duranar coatings in three colors – Butternut, Compatible Cream and Kaffee – for the batten seam panels and large, flat fascia panels that highlight the Center’s variegated metal exterior. They are complemented by Iron Mountain, a Colorweld® 500 finish for Reynobond® aluminum composite material (ACM) by ALCOA Architectural Products, which were used to fabricate 7,000 square feet of column covers.

“The aluminum panels were chosen for their non-corrosive nature, and finishing the material with Duranar coatings provided a long-lasting, low-maintenance skin,” Gabriel explained. “The colors also create the feel of natural wood while relating to the natural earth tones of the adjacent Tecolote Canyon.”

For nearly 50 years, Duranar coatings have been trusted by architects and building owners to protect and beautify metal building components on curtain walls, storefronts and other high-visibility applications. Consisting of a corrosion-inhibiting primer and a proprietary 70-percent fluoropolymer top coat, Duranar coating systems are available in a wide range of colorful, durable and chemically inert formulations that provide exceptional resistance to color fade, chalk, chemical attack and surface damage caused by acid rain, salt spray, and humidity, even in highly UV-intense environments such as southern California.

The aluminum panels are joined by Solarban 70XL glass to complete the student center’s energy-saving façade system. The product was chosen for its clarity and performance.

Despite being integrated into a hillside, “the goal was to make the building as light and bright as possible,” Gabriel explained. The solution is an open atrium that floods the middle of the structure with sunlight. A cascade of interior openings, terraces, overhangs and floor-to-ceiling windows works to optimize the site’s abundant natural light and mitigate glare.

Formulated with a proprietary triple-silver coating, Solarban 70XL glass transmits 64 percent of the sun’s available light and blocks more than 70 percent of its heat energy in a standard 1-inch insulating glass unit (IGU). With a light-to-solar gain (LSG) ratio of 2.37, the glass is one of the highest-performing products on the market.

The integrated glass-and-metal curtain wall helps make the Mesa Community College Student Services Center a high-energy performer. Despite the warm climate and vast openness of its interior space, the building performs 37 percent better than California’s stringent Title 24 energy-performance criteria.
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