The Ole Ave Project, with its 300-bed residence hall and 140-bed townhomes, was designed to take advantage of the nexus between city and campus. Located within walking distance of many different amenities, from neighborhood restaurants and downtown Northfield, it is positioned as an ideal midpoint for the natural traffic patterns of the College. The inclusion of an indoor bicycle storage facility at the residence hall & many dispersed bike racks adds options for sustainable travel to the city & campus.

The many complex decisions that were made during the design and budgeting process were not “checklist” decisions. They were informed by the best practices of LEED or WELL Building Standard programs but were tailored to address the specific needs and constraints at St Olaf. While the Project is not pursuing accreditation within these codified systems, many of the design aspects of the project meet or exceed them.

The design focus for this project has always been to promote student health and wellbeing through the overall masterplan of the project. The shallow floorplates of the buildings facilitate views & connections to the landscape beyond and allows for an abundance of natural light within the building. Large areas of vegetated and occupiable outdoor open space are an integral part of this project, with tiered lightwells bringing natural light and real views of greenery into the lower-level Student Services area. As natural light is important during the day, so darkness is after dusk. Light pollution from interior lights has been mitigated using site plantings on the exterior & dimming controls on the interior. Exterior Dark -Sky approved lighting fixtures maintain a safe level of illumination surrounding the project buildings while reducing light pollution from the site.

Operable windows in all the residence rooms and lounge spaces allow for natural ventilation and individual climate control. Individual residence room thermostats are also included for local and personal control. The residence rooms, lounges and study areas are designed for optimum daylighting and views all the while providing many locations for communal & restorative activities within the larger public spaces. Public spaces include kitchens for preparation of meals, a variety of lounges for socializing, study rooms, smaller laptop lounges and booth seating. These spaces become community activators encouraging cross-pollination of ideas and the strengthening of social relationships.

Native and adaptive vegetation have been used throughout the design with an eye on seasonal change, passive solar considerations and reducing allergens.  The design ensures that plants are adapted to the local climate and need little if any supplemental water, eliminating the need for an irrigation system on this project. The landscape associated with the Ole Avenue project maintains consistency with the campus character incorporating lawns with tree canopy and a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees.  The project is generously landscaped to blend and buffer adjacent properties, providing an environment that is conducive to study and mental health; and supports a variety of gatherings – small, larger, and distributed.

Rain gardens are introduced at the townhouses; heavily planted detention basins provide additional stormwater functionality for the project. Parking lots are positioned behind the townhouses to provide additional fire access and to keep parking traffic and trash receptacles off Ole Ave.

During the construction process, an erosion control plan, as well as a stormwater pollution prevention plan will be implemented to protect the natural resources & public utilities that exist on-site.

Within the buildings, low-flow plumbing fixtures & Energy-Star certified appliances have been specified & will be installed throughout. All light fixtures in the project are high-efficiency LED fixtures, many on dimming switches in dwelling units, allowing light levels to be adjusted for occupant comfort level. The residence hall is designed so all the short run corridors have windows allowing for natural lighting and reducing the need for building lighting during the day.

The Project has been designed to meet the stringent ASHRAE 90.1 energy code.  The new Residence Hall will be heated by 93.5% efficient hot water boilers, while cooling will be accomplished by using the campus chilled water system. This will reduce the need to have a chiller at the new Hall, taking advantage of the existing highly efficient cooling.

The outdoor air ventilation requirements will be handled through two large dedicated outdoor air handling units equipped with high-tech heat and energy recovery components. These components will extract up to 78% of the heat and energy from the building’s exhaust systems to continuously treat the intake air. This in essence, pre-heats the incoming winter air and pre-cools the incoming summer air. These units are designed as 100% outdoor air delivery units with precise de-humidification capabilities which will assure superior indoor air quality throughout the year.

The new Townhomes will have a high-efficiency furnace and AC unit with attached heat recovery units for each town home, thus using far less energy than existing Honor Houses.

The exterior walls & roofs of all buildings have been detailed with continuous insulation outboard of the wall studs and spray-foam insulation inboard to form an integral air-barrier, creating a tighter, more energy efficient building envelope. Exterior cladding material on all buildings have been selected for durability & sustainability. Stone cladding for the residence hall and townhouses is not mined but manufactured with calcium silicate and post-recycled content while cladding for the townhouses includes planks made with recycled fly ash.

The windows on the Project all have double paned glass with low-E coating in thermally broken frames. Care is being taken to specify products that can be recycled in some way so they may have a useful life when they are replaced.

Interior products and materials are carefully chosen based on their natural properties, recycled material content, sustainable processes, and overall lifespan…not to mention beauty. Not only are the products selected sustainable, but they also have very low volatile organic compound (VOC) content, and so improve interior air quality. From walk-off carpets and carpet tiles with 80% recycled material, to the 100% biobased Linoleum, and local reclaimed or recycled interior wood siding, the interior design will include locally sourced, locally made, long lasting, red list free products.

Artwork and environmental graphics are also included throughout the residence hall contributing to a sense of well being and inclusiveness. The natural daylight in circulation spaces & diversity of public areas from lounges to study areas encourages movement through the residence hall to access different public spaces & engage with different vantage points to the site outside. The buildings share the common aspects of engagement with the natural world, inclusion of accessible features, sustainable systems, and a humanistic approach to student residence.