Student get peek at ACC Highland campus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Community College is wrapping up construction on their newest campus. The ACC Highland campus opens just in time for the fall semester, at the end of September.

Students got a sneak peek at the facility on Wednesday to help spread the news on social media. Danielle Henderson, an architecture and engineering student, was among them.

“The flow of it, the lightning, everything,” she said. “The design of it, I’m only two semesters in but there’s so much I can see and appreciate about it.”

The redesigned JC Penny building at Highland Mall is now open, modern and energy efficient. Two rainwater catchment tanks right near the front entrance hold 17,000 gallons of water collected off the roof and from the air conditioning units. That water flushes the campus toilets.

“It just seemed like the natural progression of ideas with the size of the roof we have to collect the water, don’t let it go to waste,” Jay Barnes with Barnes Gromatzky Kosarek Architects.

In addition to using efficient systems behind the scenes, like heating and cooling, and abundant natural light, Barnes says the biggest green move was repurposing the building itself.

“Our charge was really to transform the facility to a safe and healthy and sustainable educational environment,” said Barnes, “and then kind of wrap architecture around some of these new exciting ideas for delivering education.”

Wednesday’s tour showed off the classrooms and labs as well as the library and football field sized computer lab called the ACCelerator.

“The building is awesome but really the focus here is education which is something I personally take very serious,” said Henderson.

Students will set their own pace at one of the 604 computer stations when it comes to the development math program. Tutors and teachers will circulate the room, offering guidance where needed.

With student gathering spaces scattered across the space, ACC says they hope to encourage students to stay on campus between classes.

In November, voters will decide the fate of ACC’s future. There are two bond proposals on the table, totaling more than $386 million. Phase two of Highland campus is a part of Prop 1. If it passes, officials plan to repurpose Highland Mall to serve as a regional workforce center, regional health science center, digital creative media center, and a culinary and hospitality center. If both bond proposals pass, the average homeowner can expect to pay an extra $40 a year in property taxes.

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