Bonita Center for the Arts employs advanced daylighting techniques Photo courtesy of Rachlin Partners.

Bonita Center for the Arts employs advanced daylighting techniques

The new $22 million Bonita Center for the Arts in San Dimas, Calif., was designed to serve as a community landmark that educates while tying the local school district with the community. Designed by Rachlin Partners, the structure includes computer-operated sun louvers, a red circular stairwell serving as a signature design element, and an acoustic quality on par with world-renowned performing arts venues. The building is currently pending Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) verification, California’s highest standard of green education facilities.

The 29,250-square-foot facility was developed through community workshops and meetings between school arts administrators and the design team. Built with Measure AB funds approved by local taxpayers, the Center’s 700-seat main indoor theater, as well as its outdoor performance area, will host drama, dance, lecture, and band and choir performances from San Dimas schools, La Verne schools, and visiting theater companies.

Design challenges included shading a glass façade, allowing limited lobby space to accommodate hundreds of patrons, and making both a visual and sustainable connection to San Dimas’ surrounding neighborhood and dry, sunny environment. The solution involved shading the glass façade with computerized louvers that track the angle of the sun. These solar shading fins open and close automatically to let in more or less light.  In addition, an outdoor solar shade overhang helps expand the lobby space.  Drought-tolerant plants were selected for a low-water-usage landscape.

Placards in the facility that explain the building’s sustainable features including:

  • Lobby windows made of low-E glass block 67 percent of solar heat while allowing light to pass through.
  • Exterior computer-automated louvers deflect sunlight to keep interior spaces cool to minimize the demand for air conditioning.
  • Low-volume toilets help save an average of 20 percent total water, or a savings of 51,840 gallons per year. Pint-flush urinals save 70,875 gallons of water per year.
  • Bathroom faucets contain automatic shut-off valves.
  • Plants chosen for their low water consumption, drought tolerance, and low maintenance needs.
  • Wherever possible drip irrigation is used to deliver water to support plant growth.
  • Building materials used emit very low amounts of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can have a negative effect on indoor air quality.
  • Conditioned air is delivered from below the floor through the pedestal bases of the auditorium seats, consuming less energy due to lower fan speeds and is healthier because the volume of particulates in the air rises as the air warms, thus keeping the air in the breathing zone (5 feet to 7 feet above the floor) cleaner.


In addition to Rachlin Partners, the design team behind the Bonita Center for the Arts consisted of general contractor Tilden-Coil Constructors, landscape architect L.A. Design Associates, theater and audio-visual consultant Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, and LEED consultant Verde Concepts.

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