Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

From Living Buildings to Living Campuses

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

From Living Buildings to Living Campuses

Article excerpt

By living and learning in an environmentally conscious community, students learn to consider the impact of their everyday decisions.

Challenging situations afford great opportunity for change. The current state of our economy presents such a challenge to leaders of college and university planning and development. With many projects stalled by funding uncertainty, decision makers have the chance to reflect on past paradigms of growth and sprawl that have contributed to our current economic and environmental situation.

In the past, planning was often environmentally insensitive, with a general disregard for the effects of transportation, water consumption, and energy usage that runs counter to the obligation to provide a healthy future for our society. With a more acute awareness of the impact of each decision, the planning process can be used to create sustainable learning environments that respect natural resources, adapt to climatic conditions, and set new standards for building performance.

As innovation-ready communities, college campuses are well positioned to be models of sustainable planning. Sustainable strategies can be implemented at every level; whether small or large, these interventions are environmentally, economically, and academically beneficial. By living and learning in an environmentally conscious community, students learn to consider the impact of their everyday decisions, carrying the principles of sustainability beyond the confines of the campus and into their lives as global citizens.

Because of the widespread benefits, many institutions have made sustainability a priority in new projects and campus planning efforts. Wentworth Institute of Technology and Clarkson University are planning student centers designed to tap into excess energy loads. The University of British Columbia and the City University of New York's Lehman College have initiated "living building" projects in which engineering systems are designed to behave like thriving organisms. Each of these projects began with fundamental and smart planning and, as each project progresses, more sustainable possibilities are revealed.

Case Study: Sustainable Planning at Wentworth Institute of Technology and Clarkson University

At a very simple level, sustainable design is about using as little as possible. In this quest to avoid excess, the planning stage of a project is crucial in pinpointing how much space is actually needed. At Wentworth Institute of Technology, the master plan study for the new Flanagan Campus Center initially recommended new construction of more than 100,000 square feet. By reexamining existing campus space and adjacencies, the institution was able to reduce the recommended new square footage by half by selecting a new site strategically located next to existing buildings (figure 1).The new construction will create space for social activities, new program elements, and existing relevant programs relocated from elsewhere on campus. Space reclaimed from the existing adjacent buildings will house most of the necessary professional offices. A mezzanine bridge will connect these adjacent spaces to the new campus center.

The objective to use as little as possible applies to energy consumption as well. Campuses often have excess energy that can be tapped to power other campus facilities and future projects. The new Clarkson Student Center at Clarkson University, planned to open in fall 2010, will use boiler capacity from an adjacent building through an integrated system that eliminates the need for additional boilers and their attendant space.

Similarly, Wentworth Institute of Technology's new campus center will tap into an existing steam line with excess capacity. Because the central power plant was originally designed to support future expansion, it already provides an abundance of steam below the core campus buildings. The relatively short steam line extension required to connect the new campus center will eliminate the need for new boilers or chillers, further limiting the energy and space demands of the new building. …

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