Topping Off Ceremony
24 August 2007
When we began designing the new student residences here at WPI, we began with the idea that the new residence hall should support the academic, personal, and social lives of students living in the building. Additionally, we were asked to embrace WPIís declared commitment to sustainable design. Having recently completed the Bartlett Center, the first LEED project on campus, we were asked to seek LEED certification for the new residence hall as well.
During Schematic Design we engaged the campus community in a green design forum. This did several things. It expanded the communityís knowledge of sustainable design and the LEED rating system. It also generated some very interesting ideas that we were able to use in the design. Some specific ideas identified by students at the forum included:
- dynamic facades that would respond to the sites unique orientations and views
- maximization of daylight in bedrooms and living rooms
- operable windows for natural ventilation
- connection of the building to the landscape and campus community
But most of all, they wanted a building that was not just another campus building, but one that would look and feel special, unique to WPI.
A variety of strategies were explored in the early stages of design, in conjunction with the studentís requests, to assure LEED certification. We made sure that the building was situated in a way that would minimize disturbance to the site. We made a plan to ensure that storm water would be handled in an environmentally friendly way. We made sure the building was outfitted with what are called "low-flow" fixtures, to conserve water. We figured out ways we could maximize the flow of daylight to interior spaces, which would save electricity on lighting, while at the same time providing sunshades on certain windows to keep air conditioning costs down in the summer. We chose materials that have both recycled content, come from regional sources to support the local economy and are low in volatile organic compounds to make sure that the quality of the indoor air was kept high. The landscape was designed with plants that require little to no irrigation and an arts walk to provide a community space requiring some future development but a connection now between upper and lower campus and downtown. Even now, the entire construction team is engaged to assure the construction process itself will have as little environmental impact as possible by maximizing recycling and minimizing construction waste.
We have also integrated some special features into the building that supports both LEED Certification and the living/learning aspects of the building. A palletized, green roof situated on approx. 1/3 of the roof. Palletized to provide future opportunity to study plant materials best suited for green roofs. Storm water monitoring systems associated with the green roof to not only measure the amount of storm water runoff controlled by the green roof but the quality of water that flows from it. A reflective white roof on the remaining roofscape designed to minimize cooling requirements as well as heat island affect on the site. Highly energy efficient boilers combined with heat recovery systems will reduce energy costs and aluminum sunscreens will minimize heat gain through the large windows. These sustainable features combined add up to your new residence hall achieving enough performance to meet LEED Silver certification.
In conclusion, I would just like to say that you should all be proud of this building, because your campus community helped make it what it is. I also want to say that working on this project has been extremely fulfilling for all of us on the design team. Itís been a pleasure to work with the variety of constituents in the community to create a living and learning environment that will really be tailored to the needs and wants of the people who will live here. On behalf of Cannon Design, I thank WPI for this experience, and we very much look forward to hearing about studentsí experiences of living in this building that we all created together.