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Feature Story - January 2009

Biology and Bioswales

Sustainable Buildings Change Campuses, Students’ Minds

by Kathy Bergstrom

A new dining hall at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., will buy produce from a student-tended garden.

Students at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., are studying the native plants that make up the landscaping of a new ethics center.

A student project at the Illinois Institute of Technology could create a “green boulevard” on Chicago’s South Side.

Colleges and universities are gaining more than energy savings from the green buildings they construct on their campuses. They find the buildings also can create learning opportunities for students.

“We have paid careful attention to sustainability in part because of the teaching tool that it can be for our students,” says Nancy Truesdell, vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Lawrence.

Getting Students Involved

The school is constructing the $35-million, 107,000-sq-ft Lawrence University Campus Center. The five-story building, which is set to open next fall, has two above-ground levels and three built into the hillside. The building will qualify for LEED silver certification.

The university wants students to understand the environmental impacts of any decisions it makes, Truesdell says.

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Students were involved in the campus center’s design. A student environmental group talked with landscape architects about the use of native plantings in the building’s landscaping and about how building materials would be recycled.

The campus center will house the university’s dining service. About two years ago an environmental studies class designed and implemented a sustainable garden that has become the food service’s supplier. A club called Sustainable Lawrence University Garden, or SLUG, staffs the garden.

Another session of the same environmental studies class designed a river walk along the Fox River near the campus center.

Now students are talking about issues such as discontinuing the use of trays when the new dining hall opens, Truesdell says. That reduces water waste, because trays will not be washed, and also food waste, because people are more likely to take only what they will eat.

The building’s roof holds a system in which trays of soil containing green plants are set in a grid on roof sections to absorb rainfall and decrease stormwater runoff. The roof will probably be used as an ongoing teaching tool for botany students, Truesdell says.

Some of the other sustainable features of the new campus center include bioswales and thicker vegetation to filter runoff before it reaches the Fox River as well as low-flow plumbing fixtures. The basement has a changing room with shower facilities for people who bike, roller blade or use other transportation to reach the building.

Oscar J. Boldt Construction, a division of The Boldt Co., Appleton, is the project’s construction manager. Uihlein-Wilson Architects of Milwaukee was the architect.

Learning Ethics at DePauw

DePauw University built the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics in 2007, and students in chemistry, biology and physics use the building as a learning tool, says Ted Fares, the school’s director of facilities and planning.

They study the building’s energy use, carbon dioxide levels and its systems. They also study the native plants in the landscaping. A pond with a water feature pumps water into a stream, creating an ecosystem that’s being studied.

The single-story, 26,000-sq-ft building was the first building in Indiana to earn LEED gold certification. The $12-million building is used for offices, classes and conferences.

“It’s really state of the art when it comes to systems—mechanical and electrical,” Fares adds.

Stone and wood was harvested from within a 500-mi radius of DePauw, thereby reducing carbon emissions from long-haul transportation. Construction waste was recycled.

The building uses 40% less energy than buildings of similar size and function.

Some of its unique features include carbon dioxide sensors that open fresh-air dampers when needed, which creates less need for heating or cooling, Fares says. The building also has motion sensors for lighting.

The university has since constructed a 7,000-sq-ft Reflection Center and hopes to get silver LEED certification, Fares says.

All of the university’s future buildings will be green, he says. Students have pushed for it, and it’s an attraction for students in today’s competitive environment, he says.

The building was designed by Lake/Flato Architects of San Antonio. Shiel Sexton Co. Inc. of Indianapolis was the general contractor, and CSO Architects of Indianapolis the architect of record.

A Commitment to Green

Like DePauw, the Illinois Institute of Technology has committed to making all of its buildings sustainable, says Terry Frigo, associate vice president of facilities, real estate and construction.

“The students are hungry for this,” adds David Baker, executive director of the Technology Business Center at IIT and vice president of external affairs

IIT has a program called Interprofessional Projects Program that brings together undergraduate students from all disciplines to work in multidisciplinary teams on real-world projects in engineering research, process improvement, sustainability, service learning and venture development, Frigo says. Many of the projects are sponsored by corporations or community partners.

One of the projects on the fall 2008 course list is to design and engineer an eco-boulevard along 31st Street, called In Chicago, and a “Growing Water Pavilion” that will contain a mix of social and ecological programs.

The college also has hired a director of energy and sustainability and will emphasize green projects, Frigo says.

The Technology Business Center was the university’s first green project. The university worked with developer Wexford Science + Technology in Baltimore to remodel a laboratory building originally constructed in 1959.

The center opened in November 2006, although the interior build-out continues as new companies move in. The project’s general contractor was Bulley & Andrews of Chicago, and the architect was Buffalo, N.Y.-based Cannon Design.

The completed building has four stories and 126,000 sq ft of rentable space, Baker says.

“It’s billed as the first build-to-suit lab and office building in Chicago,” he adds.

IIT touts the Technology Business Center as the gateway to its University Technology Park, a four-building complex.

The entire cost of the center upon completion is expected to be between $45 million and $50 million.

 

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