Green Acres

Green Acres

From a "green" summit to a residence hall dedicated to environmental awareness to state-of-the-art construction, the Colby community is collaborating to understand and confront environmental issues.

By Stephen Collins '74


 
LEEDing the Way
Green building design may be an idea whose time has come, but in Maine it came to Colby first.

"The premium is really small, but the payback over time is quite substantial"
Russell Cole, Oak Professor of Biological Sciences and a member of Colby's Environmental Advisory Group, speaking about sustainable buildings.
Several colleges represented at the Green Campus Summit on April 2 boasted buildings under construction that will incorporate geothermal heating and will seek LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification through the U.S. Green Building Council, but the Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center (SSWAC), which will open this summer on the Colby Green, is on track to be the first LEED-certified and geothermally heated academic building in the state—and one of the first dozen or so nationwide. The Diamond Building, an academic hall for which ground was broken April 15, also will be built to LEED specifications.

The LEED program is a formal, voluntary, and consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, "sustainable— buildings. It uses a point system that takes into account a wide range of environmental and conservation concerns, and buildings can earn one of four LEED levels—certified, silver, gold, or platinum. Energy efficiency is a key concern, but renewable energy sources, water conservation, and minimization of waste in construction as well as upkeep are all considered.

#greenbuilding#left#50%#"A lot of this was just the way Colby does things anyway,— said Russell Cole, Oak Professor of Biological Sciences and a member of Colby's Environmental Advisory Group. "The LEED program has forced us to focus and go a little deeper.—

The alumni center, which includes offices for about 50 employees, includes bike racks and a shower to promote cycling to work. Outlets are available for electric cars. Natural light is maximized in the offices, and excess water from the geothermal heating and cooling system will be used to flush toilets. Wood siding is made from finger-jointed mill ends that otherwise would have ended up in a scrap pile. Materials were selected to minimize emission of adhesives, sealants, paints, etc., and copiers and printers will be in specially ventilated rooms to maintain indoor air quality. Lumber comes from sustainable forest practices, contractors are sorting debris for recycling, and 11 percent of the building is made of recycled materials.

Joseph Feely, the College architect, said the LEED list becomes part of the building program. "Until you measure yourself against something like this you don't know how you stack up,— he said. He noted that the industry is just beginning to acknowledge the demand for these innovative products.

Green choices, particularly those that involve conservation, make good economic sense, Cole insisted. "The premium is really small, but the payback over time is quite substantial.— And, as with Colby's green electricity contract, the College's leadership in adopting green building technology will help create markets that will make these materials more readily available for the next generation of green building adopters.

"Nobody just builds a building anymore,— Cole said. "You make a statement.— And Colby's statement—about its commitment to responsible and sustainable choices that will protect the environment—is one that should resonate with prospective and current students, faculty, and alumni, he added.

After all, the Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center is the first building on campus where grant money was earmarked essentially for a furnace—when the Oak Foundation gave $250,000 toward the geothermal heating system.
 
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