New Residence Hall Turns Green to Gold

Posted: February 12, 2009

Mount Holyoke’s new residence hall, which opened in September 2008, was recently awarded a Gold LEED™ certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). “From the project’s beginning, we have been working toward silver certification,” said John Bryant, the College’s director of facilities planning and management. “That was always the goal.” But Bryant and the building team outstripped even their own high expectations and amassed enough points on the LEED scorecard to earn the gold.

A number of factors contributed to the building’s high score. “We did extremely well in the area of energy conservation,” Bryant said. “We earned seven ‘energy performance’ points. It’s extremely difficult to achieve that many points in the area of energy conservation.” According to Bryant, the new building is 45 percent more energy efficient than the Massachusetts building code requires for new construction, and the Massachusetts code is one of the more stringent in the country.

Bryant explained that engineers used energy performance computer modeling, which takes into account all conservation features of the building, from its high-tech envelope insulation and high-performance windows to its solar hot water system and daylight level sensors that adjust lighting levels. “Energy conservation is a win-win,” Bryant said. “It’s the right thing to do for the environment because it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and it reduces the College’s operating costs year after year.”

The new dorm also scored the maximum number of points for water-use efficiency, using 35 percent less water than the Massachusetts code allows. Bryant noted that this is particularly impressive because the state code already requires certain low-water-use features such water-saving toilets.

The building earned high scores in the areas of site sustainability, environmentally friendly materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. An innovation credit for educational materials was awarded for the interactive “green” touch screen computer system in the lobby, which allows students to see in real time how their own residential cluster is doing in comparison to the other clusters in the building.

“The new residence hall is the greenest building on campus,” Bryant said. Four other buildings (Kendade, Carr, Shattuck, and Blanchard) are also LEED-certified. Mount Holyoke had some of the earliest LEED-certified buildings in the country, according to Bryant. “The USGBC’s LEED process was still very new during the Science Center project. Over the past nine years, our green building program has developed as the LEED system has been further refined. Their documentation process is much easier to navigate than it was in the early years, but earning the points has become more difficult.”

The new residence hall is a priority of the current Campaign for Mount Holyoke. Fifteen million of its $30 million total cost was funded by gifts to the College from alumnae and friends.

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