Ground Blessing for a New Student Residence Hall
Columbia students, alumni/ae, faculty, staff, and trustees gathered April 1 on the campus with neighbors and civic leaders for a “ground-blessing” ceremony as the seminary prepares to begin construction on a $9.6 million student residence hall. The new facility is scheduled for completion by fall 2009—just in time for members of the Class of 2010 to enjoy living there during their senior year.
Designed by the architecture firm Lord, Aeck & Sargent, the residence hall is expected to be one of the first buildings in the city of Decatur, GA, to earn LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.
“Badly needed by our students, this new building is a critical part of our plan to keep Columbia competitive not only with other theological schools but with other professional schools for the most talented leaders of the 21st century,” said President Laura Mendenhall.
The new residence hall will include studio and one-, two- and four-bedroom apartment units, a recreation/workout area accessible to the entire student body, a community kitchen with indoor and outdoor seating and fireplaces, a laundry area for residents, and mechanical and facilities support spaces.
Sustainable design features
The residence hall is expected to use approximately 50 percent less energy than a conventionally constructed facility. To improve energy efficiency, lighting strategies will include motion sensor switching, energy efficient lamps and generous amounts of daylighting. “We sited the building to enhance its energy efficiency,” said Meg Needle, AIA, LEED AP, a Lord, Aeck & Sargent associate who is project manager during design and construction of the residence hall. “We minimized east and west exposures to reduce unwanted glare and heat gain. We will also preserve many nearby trees to provide natural sun shading. With large windows we will take advantage of natural light as much as possible, provide access to views, and use sunscreens to reduce direct solar gain where appropriate.”
Needle said that other design strategies include an exterior building envelope with above-average insulation values, energy-efficient windows, and a geothermal mechanical system that will provide low operating costs and a long lifecycle. Water efficiencies include rainwater collection for landscape irrigation, and water saving plumbing fixtures. Indoor air quality will be protected through the use of low VOC adhesives and coatings. Recycled and regional construction materials will be used, and construction waste will be recycled or reused to the greatest extent possible.
Architecture draws from tradition and adds new elements
“In designing the new residence hall, we drew from historic details on campus, so the facility will complement the campus vernacular but also will integrate contemporary elements that respond to sustainability, such as the engaged, sunshaded entry tower that marks the lobby and the panoramically-glazed community kitchen and fireplace room that overlooks a new outdoor courtyard,” said Joe Greco, AIA, LEED AP, project design principal. “The entry tower will be the signature beacon for the building. Inspired by ecclesiastical bell towers of the region, we designed the tower to help create a memorable three-story atrium space with larger, vertical glass openings punctuated by stepping masonry piers and cast stone detailing. We also employed modern metal detailing in the top of the tower and in the sunscreen system to relate the building to its time.”
“Lord, Aeck & Sargent has designed a building that will be polite to Columbia’s traditional, brick gothic architecture, and yet inside will provide residents the space and amenities appropriate to their commitment as graduate students and leaders for the future of the church,” said Columbia trustee Jim Philips, who is chair of the seminary’s planning committee for the new building.