Kudos to Tufts University for opening its first environmentally friendly dorm last week. Sophia Gordon Hall (SGH), which houses 126 students, will apply for Silver LEEDS certification. SGH boasts an array of positive features. It was built with a solar thermal system to heat some of its water and with photovoltaics to generate some of its own electricity (23.8Kw at peak). To offset greenhouse gas emissions from SGH’s regular grid electricity consumption, Tufts has purchased Green-e wind certificates. The building was also built with 10% recycled/renewable materials and with less harmful chemical products. Other sustainable design elements include building material to reflect summer heat and retain heat in the winter, and a storm-water management system. Tufts believes that by implementing all of these elements into the design SGH will require 30% less energy and water than it otherwise would.
On top of all that, Tufts has launched a great, informative website about SGH that details all of the dorm’s environmentally friendly features. This is part of an initiative to educate its residents and others about sustainable design. Residents are able to see real-time energy and water consumption data for the dorm as well as how much energy its solar array produces daily. For those of us not fortunate enough to live in the dorm, we can access the data online.
Sophia Gordon Hall continues what is perhaps a trend among colleges and universities to implement sustainable building practices into their new dorms and halls. In the fall of 2004 Cornell University opened two dorms that also received LEEDS certification. I was fortunate enough to live in one of these dorms last year. Besides the motion-sensor timed lights and the constant visual reminder of the green roofs that grew all kinds of grasses and plants it felt like any other dorm. Cornell is undertaking a massive West Campus Initiative to build several new upperclassmen dorms, as well as a new student union. From the Cornell University News Service, “Not all upcoming building projects will seek LEED certification, he [Steve Beyers, the services team leader for Cornell’s Environmental Compliance Office] noted, because doing so incurs extra fees to prepare the proper documentation. However, many building projects will incorporate sustainable design features.”