Fitness gurus agree that for a healthy body, you should make a commitment, track your progress and don’t forget to stretch.

Turns out these guidelines work for structures, too. More than two years of planning, evaluation and a lot of flex are shaping the $79.1-million Health and Learning Center at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

The 270,000-sq-ft renovation and expansion project, which is targeting LEED gold, consolidates four programs housed in five buildings scattered across campus. Ranging one to four stories, it includes a 57,000-sq-ft clinic, 69,400 sq ft of classrooms and a 110,000-sq-ft student recreation center.

An athletics component replaces most of Lumberjack Stadium, built in 1961 for football and now used for soccer and track. Some portions will be refurbished, such as the track.

The project is the largest in the school’s history financially and nearly in size. Only 272,000-sq-ft Skydome arena, built in 1977, is bigger.

The project didn’t start out as NAU’s largest.

“Throughout schematic design, we were doing what I call ‘chasing change,’” says Jason Boyer, principal and design team leader with Chicago-based Cannon Design, whose Phoenix office serves as design professional. “NAU kept throwing different ideas at us and we kept responding as quickly as we could.”

The project began as a $34-million recreation center addition to include health programs from another 40-year-old building.

Designers started planning with NAU’s steering committee and the construction-manager-at-risk team from Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction in early 2008. Then, an NAU study indicated students and parents supported a health-and-recreation fee, which ended up covering 67% of current project cost.

They wanted Lumberjack Stadium overhauled, an opportunity to address gender-equity athletics compliance, says Jane Kuhn, NAU associate vice president of enrollment and student affairs and chief facilities officer.

When state stimulus funding for a planned academic building was cut, NAU added classrooms to the mix.

“We’re trying to do a more integrated approach,” Kuhn says, pointing to the school’s holistic health philosophy and a trend of mingling academics and student life. “We’re going to be doing a lot to incorporate the curriculum.”