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Home, Squared

Meet Cube, a tiny house (100 square feet). Its designer, Dr. Mike Page, an engineer and Reader in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire‘s School of Psychology, thinks the concepts embodied in the little building could help change architecture and the way we live. At the link (it leads you to the Huffington Post), you can take a tour of the tiny house and see its space-saving features: Ingenious storage options; unconventional stairs that look like building blocks, which take up less space than standard stairs or a ladder; and a table that can move horizontally within grooves on the wall, to allow for various uses. All this…and a washer too. Page says the house is designed for one person, though two people could live there, if they like each other a lot. Solar panels on the roof provide the power needed for all the appliances. Even in relatively cloudy Britain, the house would pay its inhabitants to live there in the summer, as it would produce more power than it needs. The excess would be sold to the national grid, netting the owner about £1,000 (about $1,641).

There space-saving and energy-conservation ideas here that can be applied to student residences…or homes in general; what do you think? What sort of clever space-saving solutions have you seen your students use?

Build A Better Bike Rack…

… And the world will pedal its way to your door.

In these days of more campus bike riders, LEED certification, and other factors is it time to reconsider the humble bike rack? When I saw this blog article this morning I flashed back to the variety of options I’ve seen and heard of on different campuses, ranging from the tried-and-true option of just chaining the bike to a fence, to interior bike “locker rooms” in residence halls where the two-wheeled wonders are mounted on the walls and lined up in neat and orderly rows.

This article focuses on urban settings like apartments and office towers. But would it be appropriate for a college campus? And, if not, what other options might be worth considering? Hope to hear from some of our architect friends on this question.

Read about the newfangled bicycle rack concept here.

Sustainability Spotlight: SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry

Editor’s Note: In a continuing effort to see and hear firsthand what some campuses are doing to implement sustainable strategies on campus and specifically in their residence halls, members of the ACUHO-I Sustainability Committee are issuing reports from the field. Our next installment comes from ACUHO-I Sustainability Director Lynne Deninger, principal with Cannon Design.

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has been a “green” proponent since its founding in 1911. Seeking to create and support a green way of life on campus, ESF chose to develop a living-learning experience through the first on-campus housing being built using eco-friendly modular construction.

The sustainability benefits of the project are far ranging from its modular construction to the construction companies amazing recycling efforts on site and Centennial Hall — scheduled to open later this year — has become a model of sustainability on this emerging campus. Specific details about the project have been provided by Andy Breuer of Hueber-Breuer Construction Co., Inc. and the projects’ architect, Brian DiPietro with WTW Architects. Read more

Less Is More (When It Comes To Conservation)

Right now, 40 colleges and universities are engaging in a not-too-heated competition. They’ll try to be bright, but not too bright.

Campus Conservation Nationals 2010, a contest among institutions in the United States, challenges institutions to conserve the most energy in their residence halls during a three-week period. The contest began November 1 and will end November 19. An app by Lucid Design Group, Building Dashboard, will be used to record and track energy use at each campus. The winning campus gets a Building Dashboard to keep; other prizes include energy-efficient lightbulbs, hoodies, and reusable grocery bags.

Best of luck to all the participants!

Talking Sustainable Architecture

The New Yorker magazine posted a video of the magazine’s architecture critic (I didn’t know they had one either) talking with a member of the firm that designed the new Bank of America Tower. The 54-story tower is the largest structure to get a LEED Platinum certification. Paul Goldberger, of the New Yorker, discusses sustainable architecture, incorporating nature into design, and the debate over LEED with Richard Cook, a partner in Cook+Fox Architects, and the designer of the new towers. While residence halls don’t usually achieve this size or notoriety, the issues at hand will be familiar to ACUHO-I members.

Sustainability Spotlight: Amherst College

Editor’s Note: In an effort to see and hear firsthand what some campuses are doing to implement sustainable strategies on campus and specifically in their residence halls, members of the ACUHO-I Sustainability Committee are issuing reports from the field. The first comes from ACUHO-I Sustainability Director Lynne Deninger, principal with Cannon Design.

Amherst College is a small, private liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts, and is the third oldest college in the state. It is member of the historic Little Three colleges, which includes Wesleyan University and Williams College. With nearly 99 percent of the current student population living on campus, Amherst is committed to the development of living learning communities and as such has committed to developing more energy efficient and financially responsible renovations and new construction on campus without a lot of pomp and circumstance.

Now, Amherst has not signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, nor do they have a full time sustainability director, a taskforce, or even a sustainable living/learning community. They do however know they want to provide appropriate role modeling while improving their energy efficiency and their bottom-line. I think they are moving in the right direction, one small project at a time.

Tom Davies, AIA, the director of design and construction and assistant director of facilities showed off some of the campus’ recent sustainability accomplishments that reflect the “pragmatic New England Puritan tradition” that built the Amherst campus. Following eight years of residential hall renovation projects, many of these successes were combined during the renovation of Hitchcock Hall. The following eight approaches are not necessarily glamorous or full of hype, but have met with great success.

Efficient Planning: Distinctly low tech with a high sustainability factor is the expansion of a building, even if it’s from 35 to 73 beds. Keeping existing structures and maximizing the number of students that use the existing amenities, social spaces and bathrooms, improves efficiencies.

Building Envelope: Amherst used the latest and best technology for insulating their historic masonry structures, open cell foam just to the right thickness to allow it to breathe in both directions. This took some research as if it’s too thick, the brick will disintegrate from the inside out over time. But with help from a strong design team, Amherst was able to significantly reduce heating consumption. Looking at every detail including all the insulation joints in the system at windows, doors, etc. created a new type of quality control system maximize outcomes. The prototype arrangement will be the norm on future projects.

Solar Hot Water: Hot water accounts for about a quarter of all energy consumed in a residence hall, and the solar system will cut that by more than half. The solar system is complex and expensive, but the key to making it effective is something extremely simple and cheap:  high-quality low-flow shower heads that cut the demand for hot water. Amherst tested a number of the best and settled on a model that was developed for high-end hotels in Las Vegas. They are now in every shower on campus. They’re terrific and even at $60 per they pay for themselves in about a year.

Boilers: Another high-tech hidden item is the use of high-efficiency boilers for building heating and hot water. As Davies said, “it’s not bleeding edge stuff, but is now a practical proven technology”.

Sensors: The use of occupancy sensors for lights to shut off when no one is around. This is a no-brainer. However, the use of humidity sensors to throttle back the bathroom exhaust when no one is taking a shower is a novel approach dreamt up by the design and construction office. They are monitoring the installation now to determine success.

Window Points: As many have experienced, students often leave windows open even when it’s five degrees outside. At Amherst, it is the norm for facilities staff to actually go around to every dorm room the day after winter break starts to close the windows. To address this problem, they began testing a system that senses when a window is opened and automatically lowers the thermostat setting to 60. The idea is that when the student gets cold, they’ll close the window again. Tom notes that with clever students, comes many opportunities to circumvent the system, but he believes it’s “worth a try” and perhaps the best outcome will be a general student awareness of the waste resulting from leaving a window open through the winter months.

LED Lighting: Davies notes, “an interesting story on this one is that our engineers wouldn’t believe the manufacturer’s claims about how much light LED lights generate per watt. When we started to light them up it was clear that they were more efficient than the design assumed, so we actually had to remove some to lower lighting levels.”

Vestibules: Designed appropriately, Davies notes, they actually work as air-locks. So often, vestibules are minuscule spaces between two doors, and even with one person entering or exiting both doors end up open at the same time, throwing away energy. At Amherst, all main entries have been redesigned to actually function as an air lock. It’s not going to get a LEED point. It’s not flashy “green” technology. But it’s high-value. Pragmatic New England design indeed.

Ideas From Generation E

Last week the National Wildlife Federation released Generation E: Students Leading for a Sustainable, Clean Energy Future, The report, sponsored by The Kendeda Fund and the Association of College Unions International and supported by a number of partners including ACUHO-I,  highlights sustainability programs and practices college students are implementing to lower their campus’ carbon footprint.

In the press release, Julian Keniry, the senior director of Campus and Community Leadership for the NWF, said: “We scouted projects at more than 160 colleges and universities all across the country. In more than 20 years of supporting student environmental leaders, we’ve never seen this extraordinary degree of student engagement and creativity around sustainability at every level. Our findings demolish the myth that students are apathetic or sitting on the sidelines. Their voices are rising up in ways we haven’t heard since the civil rights or the peace movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but the irony is, we are finding that most campus educators and leaders at the state and federal levels aren’t really listening.”

The projects included in the report include cover the spectrum of recycling programs, inter-residence hall sustainability competitions, sustainability-themed housing, and much more. The programs vary in their scope, but the encouraging news is how the students lead these initiatives. A Princeton Review study back in May reported that 68 percent of the students surveyed valued information about a college’s commitment to the enviornment. These students have oftentimes taken matters into their own hands to make a difference, and that will shape behaviors moving forward.

What are the programs on your campus that will get students leading for a more sustainable future?

Sustainable Data

The Sustainable Endowments Institute is a non-profit organization that produces the College Sustainability Report Card. They are a project of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers.

The results of the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s survey, which constitutes the report card, are now fully available online. You can search for campus, dining, endowment and student surveys from responding schools. It’s a handy way to see how your institution is measuring up against its contemporaries in sustainability.

Who would’ve thought that Standard Oil would lead to this?

Greening From the Inside Out

Higher education institutions have shown interest in greening their own practices; constructing efficient buildings; using environmentally-friendly groundskeeping methods and cleaning chemicals and going trayless in the cafeteria. But what wbout the students themselves? Some institutions are now offering classes, certificates or degrees in environmental topics. While some of these are stand-alone degrees or courses, others combine with majors the institution already offered, to provide a sustainable lens through which to view one’s career and life’s work. These programs can be combined with many other majors, meaning architecture, interior design and hospitality students can graduate with knowledge about how to utilize sustainable elements in their work.

Climate Commitment Easier Signed Than Done

Four hundred colleges and universities signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. So now, 400 colleges and universities must submit their plans for meeting that promise. It’s a challenging time to set ambitious goals, since the economy is still in a slump and the higher education world is suffering from this as much as any other sector. For now, most institutions are hoping to start meeting their commitments through reduced energy use and increased efficiency, and may apply carbon offsets later to make up the difference.

Another Ranking, This One’s Green

Everyone wants to get their two cents in, via rankings. The Sierra Club has its rankings of “Cool Schools,” which orders institutions by their sustainability efforts. This is the third year for the Cool Schools list. On the Sierra Club website, one can read the list, see the cool factors that determined the rankings, read students’ accounts of the coolness of their institutions, see a list of cool community colleges  and schools that specialize in particular areas of sustainability.