USC Opens Green Dorm and Learning Center
Complex uses 45 percent less energy and 20 percent less water than traditional facilities of the same size.
Meaghan O'Neill -- Interior Design, 11/19/2004 12:00:00 AM
The University of South Carolina officially opened the school's first "green" dorm, called West Quad, a 172,000-square-foot complex that includes three four-story buildings that houses 500 undergraduates. The complex is one of the first of its kind in the U.S., and the school believes it is helping set the standard for more eco-conscious college facilities.
The complex, which was built with a significant amount of recycled materials--ranging from the cement blocks and copper roof to the interior carpet--is also intended to encourage students to learn more about their environment. Biology students, faculty, and residents even helped grow and plant drought-resistant, low-growing greenery as part of an extensive storm-water filtering and management system. The complex also boasts an outdoor amphitheater, and a cafeteria that sells healthy foods and environmentally sensitive products.
"Our goal is to raise our students' awareness of the importance of making decisions based on environmentally sound principles for economic and altruistic reasons and then putting those decisions into practice," said Dr. Gene Luna, director of University Housing at USC.
As part of that philosophy, West Quad includes a 9,000-square-foot living and learning center where classes are held on sustainability, environmental groups can hold meetings and faculty can host conferences.
The complex cost $30.9 million to build, about the same cost as a traditional residence hall, despite the fast-dissolving myth that building green costs more. Furthermore, its systems will operate with significantly reduced utility costs, since West Quad uses 45 percent less energy and 20 percent less water than traditional residence halls of the same size.
Water is preheated by a solar collection system and electricity and hot water for the learning center are generated partly by a five-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell, which also will be used as a teaching tool by chemical-engineering faculty. The turf roof on the learning center not only cools the building by absorbing heat but reduces rainwater runoff, improving storm water management. The complex will also contribute fewer greenhouse gases, since its heating, ventilation, cooling, refrigeration and fire suppression systems are free of ozone-depleting substances.
Special light shelves in the windows ensure energy efficiency and comfort by deflecting natural light into the rooms and reflecting it off the ceiling to light the room and reduce the heat of direct sunlight. Interior lights have motion sensors. Low-flow plumbing, high-efficiency washers and dryers, a changing room for bicyclists who commute to campus and lots of outdoor green space for relaxation add to West Quad's intelligent design.
USC has registered West Quad with the U.S. Green Building Council and is awaiting the council's LEED certification. To date, only two universities have residence halls with LEED certification--Carnegie Mellon, with a 71,000-square-foot building, and Duke University, which renovated residence hall.
If certified, West Quad will be the third LEED building in South Carolina. The other two are Furman University's Hipp Hall, an academic building; and the Cox and Dinkins offices, an engineering and surveying firm in Columbia.
The university is also currently constructing its new Arnold School of Public Health to adhere to sustainable principles.
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