CU's newest residence hall showcases sustainable design

The University of Colorado Boulder's newest residence hall, Williams Village North, is welcoming students this week for the first time, many of whom will be learning about the building's sustainable design through two new Residential Academic Programs, or RAPs, that are housed in the residence hall.

The RAPs, "Sustainable by Design" and "Social Entrepreneurship for Equitable Development and Sustainability," or SEEDS, will allow students to use the building as a living and learning laboratory.

CU-Boulder now has 12 campus RAPs that allow students to live and learn together in the same residence hall with other students who have shared interests. The RAP programs are designed to introduce students to faculty and to allow them to take selected courses and to participate in educational and social events -- all within their residence hall.

"One of our main objectives with the SEEDS RAP is to bring students from different academic backgrounds together and have them work together to learn about sustainability," said Professor Susan Clarke, faculty director of the SEEDS RAP. "Figuring out how to solve problems coming from different disciplines is what we want the students to take from this program."

Professor Joann Silverstein of the College of Engineering and Applied Science is the faculty director of the Sustainable by Design RAP.

As an introduction, students from both new RAPs are required to take a course titled "Social Innovation and Design for Sustainable Communities," which highlights the multidisciplinary aspect of the programs. Architecture Assistant Professor Matthew Jelacic will serve as the faculty in residence for both of the RAPs, and he will be one of the professors team teaching the course.

The course is centered on the concepts of design, innovation and sustainability, and uses the concept of design to bridge engineering and social science domains, according to Jelacic.

"My hope for this course is that it helps prepare students to work on solving the complex local-to-global problems faced in the world today such as environmental pollution, sustainable resources, energy scarcity, hunger and socio-economic disparities," Jelacic said.

The RAPs also will have an annual theme, and this year they are focusing on food.

"The issue of sustainability is not a straight forward concept," Clarke said. "Sustainable food production is a very difficult problem to solve, but it is also something that students can relate to and learn about with a hands-on approach."

Throughout the school year, local chefs, farmers and others involved in sustainable food production will visit Williams Village North to share their experiences with the students. And since the new residence hall has its own kitchen stocked with energy-efficient appliances, students also will get to sample some recipes made from locally produced food.

"Having vibrant sustainability entrepreneurs in Boulder is a real bonus to our program because it shows our students the value in what they are learning," Clarke said. "There are numerous opportunities available to graduates who can apply sustainability to real-world problems like food production."

Built to a high Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standard, the Williams Village North building has numerous sustainability features. In addition to the usual sustainable items such as efficient lighting and water fixtures and appliances, the facility also includes energy-efficient lighting with windows that maximize daylight use, occupancy sensor lighting, advanced heating and cooling systems with automatic controls and native landscaping.

Additionally, more than 50 percent of all of the construction waste was diverted from the landfill. The building also is on track to be the first LEED Platinum building on campus.

"Compared to a building of the same size that wasn't constructed with these sustainability features, Williams Village North is expected to use about 39 percent less energy," said Heidi Roge, building project manager from CU-Boulder's Housing and Dining Services department. "This translates into more than $220,000 in annual utility savings."

The $46.5 million residence hall includes 131,246 gross square feet, 500 beds, five classrooms, one faculty apartment, a residence hall director apartment, a great room/lobby and study spaces on each floor. Construction on the residence hall began in January 2010.

The total cost of the residence hall has been financed through bonds taken out by the campus Housing and Dining Services department. The bonds will be repaid through revenue generated by the 500 additional beds.

Additional building features include:

-- Solar-heated water

-- On-site solar photovoltaic renewable energy on the carport at Bear Creek Apartments

-- Covered bike parking

-- Phantom load switches

-- Light emitting diode, or LED, lighting

-- Building materials and construction maximized by the use of regional, high recycle content and low Volatile Organic Compound, or VOC, materials

-- Storm water diverters for roof drainage to provide irrigation to landscaping

-- Energy Star appliances

-CU-

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