St. Olaf follows a design process for any new or remodeled building that includes a deep life-cycle cost analysis. Architectural decisions are made that best suit the building for the duration rather than simply the immediate expenditure. The life expectancy for Buntrock Commons, for example, is nearly 200 years.
New buildings and major renovations at St. Olaf also are designed using the local utility’s Energy Design Assistance Program, which starts at programming, identifies the broadest range of possible opportunities, and then provides incentives for implementation. The Regents Hall project went through the process and was awarded incentives totaling more than $500,000. The result is a facility that will perform more than 60 percent better than the energy code model for the building. This is now the standard protocol for major projects at the college and four major projects have taken advantage of the program.
In addition, custodial supplies have been converted to Green Seal-certified materials, eliminating a large family of chemicals from campus buildings. Residence hall renovations will remove vinyl tiles, replacing them in student rooms with hypo-allergenic carpet tiles that are made with recycled material and are themselves recyclable. Vinyl tiles in corridors are being replaced with quarry tiles, eliminating strippers, waxes, and other surface finishes from the buildings.
Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences
Finished in September 2008, Regents Hall was the first St. Olaf building designed and constructed with a goal of obtaining the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification. LEED emphasizes state-of-the-art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. With features such as a green roof, reliance on passive solar lighting, and the minimization of chemical and biological waste, Regents Hall is not simply a model for responsible environmental stewardship but a daily working example of sustainability in practice.
Regents Hall’s “green roof” — planted with low-maintentance sedums, cacti, grasses and columbine — helps reduce the building’s heating and cooling load and minimizes its heat signature. The green roof also reduces stormwater runoff, filters carbon dioxide out of the air, and filters pollutants out of rainwater. Water that does not infiltrate is captured and released in a waterfall that cascades into a stream that flows into stormwater ponds below the parking lot. The rooftop rainwater collection system also provides water for use in the greenhouse.
Energy consumption is significantly reduced by design elements that harvest daylight. Abundant natural light penetrates deep into interior spaces due to extensive use of interior windows and light transoms. Fritted glass on southern-exposure windows work to reduce the summer solar heating. The HVAC systems in the building are designed to reclaim the heat energy from exhaust air; during winter months that energy is then sent to warm the incoming air to the greatest extent possible.
All wood and related forest products inside Regents Hall are free of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds, reducing total off-gassing and promoting cleaner indoor air. In addition, all wood used in the building was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Opened in November 1999, Buntrock also was intentionally designed to optimize natural daylight. A skylight over the Crossroads offers central light to all three floors. Slate floors were chosen for their strength and durability as well as easy cleaning. No chemical treatments, sealing or finishing is necessary. Carpet tiles are used for high-traffic areas; when one piece is damaged, it can be replaced without redoing the entire floor, and the removed tile is recycled.
Like many buildings on campus, Buntrock Commons has a slate roof. Slate roofs costs more initially, but better withstand rough Minnesota weather and can last more than 100 years.