Bernhard’s MEPF and Structural Design Services Take Center Stage at UCA’s Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts


The University of Central Arkansas (UCA) recently unveiled its architectural gem, the Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts. The center offers a seamless integration of state-of-the-art facilities for visual arts, music, and theater under one roof. Bernhard teams provided MEPF and structural design consulting, which played a pivotal role in bringing this innovative project to fruition.

A Hub for Creativity

The Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts stands tall as UCA’s new epicenter for visual arts, housing 2D and 3D studios, student work areas, workshops, instructional spaces, and faculty offices. As the primary home for UCA’s Music Department, it boasts a 450-seat concert hall, rehearsal and ensemble spaces, practice rooms, and teaching studios. The inclusion of a versatile 175-seat black box theater adds a dynamic dimension, enhancing theatrical performance opportunities for students and engaging the campus and community alike.

Strategic MEPF and Structural Planning

Bernhard’s involvement began with strategic pre-design meetings, where teams collaborated with UCA’s facility leadership to strategize how to manage the new building’s innovative requirements. The design process involved intricate work, such as the development of a Glu-Lam “honeycomb” structure and custom concealed metal connections inside the Concert Hall to protect acoustic integrity.

A highlight of Bernhard’s design is the utilization of a 300-ton water-cooled mag-bearing chiller, efficiently serving both the performing arts building and the adjacent 3D arts building. The forward-thinking design includes taps for future connection to the campus district loop, highlighting Bernhard’s commitment to long-term sustainability.

Precision in Sound and Lighting

Collaborating closely with structural teams, acousticians, and architects, Bernhard addressed critical aspects of sound mitigation. The detailed planning ensured that sound levels in instrument practice rooms and the recital hall were maintained at less than an NC of 15. This was achieved by Bernhard engineers through a multi-layered approach, including internally lined ducts, duct silencers, and lagging before and after VAV boxes.

The Concert Hall’s air distribution system is a testament to Bernhard’s commitment to innovation. A self-balancing design, devoid of downstream balancing dampers, ensures optimal noise levels. Air velocity is maintained at less than 400 feet per minute, minimizing unwanted disturbances during performances.

Bringing in theater and A/V consultants enabled Bernhard to design and specify lighting for the concert hall stage that meets the specific needs of musicians. The emphasis was on achieving proper lighting levels and angles, ensuring that the focus remains on the performers while creating a visually stunning experience.

Illuminating Artistry

Bernhard’s electrical team extended its expertise to the art studios and gallery, designing lighting solutions similar to art gallery standards. The use of aimable light fixtures with adjustable apertures and high-end +97 Color Rendering Index (CRI) LED’s ensures that works of art maintain their original color integrity when displayed in professional settings—a remarkable feat given the typical building lighting standards.

Bernhard’s comprehensive MEPF and structural design services have played a pivotal role in transforming UCA’s Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts into a beacon of creativity and innovation. The meticulous attention to detail, commitment to sustainability, and collaboration with various stakeholders have collectively elevated this project into a showcase of excellence in architectural engineering. The Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts not only unites the arts but also stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and excellence in engineering.