Green is not just the color of money, it is the color of social-responsibility

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Living a Sustainable Lifestyle

 As back to school begins young students are looking to go to a school where they can spend four years living a sustainable lifestyle.
With its Georgian architecture and Old Virginia bricks, South Hall looks a lot like other buildings on the Wake Forest University campus.

But the new residence hall, which will open to freshmen on Aug. 19, is a showpiece that was built using modern ideas on sustainability.

And it's been outfitted with the latest in green technology, from energy-efficient appliances to flat-screen TVs that will show students how much water and electricity is being consumed on each of the building's four floors.

The 67,000-square-foot building on the southern tip of campus reflects the university's mission to become more sustainable, said Donna McGalliard, the dean of residence life and housing.

"The university's philosophy has really been focused on sustainability," McGalliard said. "And that it's not just a fad or a trend."

For the past few years, the university has added things such as more efficient washers and recycling centers at its residence halls, but South Hall is the first building that was planned, designed and constructed with LEED-certification in mind. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification system used for green building.

Wake Forest will not know whether South Hall meets LEED certification for several months.

Jim Alty, the associate vice president for facilities and campus services, said the university has started a number of programs to get faculty, staff and students to recycle, reuse food trays and share cars.

"This is the first time that Wake has had a chance to demonstrate in a physical way our commitment to sustainability," he said.

A new welcome center also is being built following green-building standards.

South Hall, one of six freshmen residence halls that form a cluster on the south end of campus, was built to accommodate the growing number of freshmen attending Wake. It will house 201 students, most of whom will live in a double room that averages about 220 square feet. Freshmen will be randomly chosen to live there.

The residence hall is the first to be built at Wake since 1998, when an apartment-style hall was built on the north end of campus. The new dorm cost $18 million to build. The green features did not add to the price, Alty said.

The building's environmentally friendly features will be a draw for this generation of college students, McGalliard said. "I would not say the same thing of students five years ago. This follows naturally with what they've been learning." Green dorms are showing up all over the country, said Alexandra Adler, the assistant director of Sustainable Endowments Institute, which promotes sustainability on college campuses. About 44 percent of 332 colleges surveyed have either a "green" residence hall or one that is devoted to sustainable living, according to a report the institute issued last year.

A recent report that looked at sustainability at 332 universities showed that about 44 percent have either a "green" residence hall or one that is devoted to sustainable living.

"Young students are looking to go to a school where they can spend four years living a sustainable lifestyle," Adler said. "When you're in a dorm, you don't have control over how much water is being used, so to live in a dorm with those kinds of facilities would be attractive."

One of South Hall's features is the amount of natural light that filters through its many windows. The windows, which are double-pane and framed in aluminum, not only bring in natural light but offer good views of the campus and the surrounding green space.

Ryan Swanson, the university architect, said the connection to the outside world is part of sustainable design. "Part of being sustainable is satisfying the occupant," he said.

Those occupants can study in rooms with individual thermostats, lean back in chairs made of recycled seat belts, and fix popcorn in a microwave-refrigerator-freezer combo that uses just one plug.

"This is going to help students understand what it means to live in a sustainable environment," McGalliard said.   See Full Story

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