Pitzer Phase II Dorm Aims for LEED

Pitzer College took another step toward becoming a “LEEDer” in the push for more sustainable buildings on college campuses in June when it broke ground on a new residence hall, “Phase II” of the school’s Residential Life Project. The school completed Phase I of its Master Plan in 2007 and is planning a Phase III for sometime in the future.

Discussions over constructing a new, sustainable residence hall emerged in 2003 after an evaluation of Pitzer residence halls found that some of the school’s buildings—dating back to the sixties, when the school was founded—would be more cheaply replaced than renovated due to the broad scope associated with projected renovations. According to Pitzer’s Director of Campus Facilities Larry Burik, one of school’s oldest residence hall, Holden Hall, will most likely be torn down after the completion of the Phase II project, which is expected to be finished by June 2012.

In addition to an updated look, the school is also seeking platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for the Phase II residence hall, which will have several sustainable features.

One such element is a green rooftop that will be larger than that installed on the Phase I buildings (Atherton, Pitzer, and Sanborn Halls), with plants covering much of the roof. Other features include solar panels and an innovative gray water reclamation system that will purify shower and sewage water for irrigation. If certified, Pitzer would join the ranks of the recently completed Sontag and Pomona Halls at Pomona College and the Kravis Center at Claremont McKenna College (CMC), which earned LEED Platinum and LEED Gold certifications, respectively.

The Phase II residence hall will include about 300 student beds with four additional beds for staff and faculty. The additional housing will allow Pitzer to guarantee housing for 94 percent of students, a rise from the 74 percent of students for whom the school currently guarantees housing.

According to Pitzer Vice President of Student Affairs Jim Marchant, the new building will house more than just bedrooms.

“We introduced the use of mix use buildings,” he said. “The [Phase II] dorm will house the 5C media studies center, the study abroad center, the Pitzer archives, conference rooms, three seminar rooms, over 20 study rooms, and a demonstration kitchen.”

Marchant said the school hired Orange County architecture firm Carrier Johnson + CULTURE, the same firm that built the Phase I residence halls, to develop a design for the Phase II project.

“We’re really happy with their design,” Marchant said. A separate contractor has been brought in to conduct the actual construction of Phase II.

The look of the new building will resemble that of the Phase I residence halls, with jutting angles, modern sleekness, and different shades of taupe and beige.

Burik said sustainability was a major focus of the design process for Phase II.

“We are challenging standard buildings to be more energy-friendly,” he said. “We have to manage waste from the construction site in a green way and deal with atmospheric concerns about the air quality.”

To finance the building projects outlined in the Master Plan, Marchant said the school relies on borrowing and accepting gifts from alumni and friends of the college.

“We borrow money at a low interest rate and then we backfill that with gifts [and] donations from friends and parents,” he said. “We’re able to offset the borrowing cost by going back and raising money in our campaign.”

Burik said the success of the Phase II project could affect plans for the Phase III building and other projects on Pitzer’s campus.

“We are leveraging off the success of our already-completed buildings and evaluating their shortcomings when we plan our future buildings,” he said.

So far, Phase II has received a warm welcome from the Pitzer community.

“I think that the new dorm is going to revitalize campus because it is not just a dormitory,” Marchant said. “It will be a place where the college community can come together.”

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