College seeks eco-friendly solutions to Kellogg renovations

A committee of about 20 students, faculty and staff are working on plans to renovate Kellogg House to meet the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building standards. If the plans are successful, Kellogg will be completed in the fall of 2014 and will be the first building to achieve the status of a Living Building through renovation, as all other buildings with the designation were originally constructed to meet such standards.

The Victorian-style Kellogg, one of the oldest wood frame structures on campus, currently sits on stilts. It has changed location several times, often making room for new buildings on campus. Presently, the house is in the vicinity of its final location near Stetson-Sawyer, but is likely to move again before renovations begin. Kellogg previously housed the Center for Environmental Studies (CES), but currently stands vacant. With an attached addition, Kellogg will be the future home of the CES and the Zilkha Center.

Living Building qualifications are numerous and strict. “The core idea is that the building and its surroundings are supposed to behave like their environment and maybe even enhance the environment,” David Dethier, chair of the Kellogg Building Committee and professor of geosciences, said. The renovated building must produce as much energy as it uses, commonly by photovoltaics (solar energy). Water use must net zero, so rainfall will be collected from the roof. A quarter of space outside the building will be dedicated to two gardens, one for vegetables and one for more landscaped fruit and nut trees. Building materials must be non-toxic. Renovations will reuse wood from trees removed to make room for the new Stetson Hall. Because every office must have a window that opens for ventilation, there can be no interior offices. Since net square feet is directly related to environmental cost, faculty offices will be smaller, but large enough to conduct tutorials.

The new building will be “as small and efficient as possible while meeting all the programmatic needs,” Dethier said.

The renovated building will contain administrative offices, study spaces and the Matt Cole Library, named in memory of a CES graduate of the Class of 1993.

Though it will contain some classrooms, the building’s primary function will not be for classes. The library will provide students with a space to meet and study and will house journals and articles, many of which belong to the CES in Harper House.

The committee also envisions  “an outdoor classroom plaza connected with the building,” Dethier said. The new building, to be attached to Kellogg, will engage with its surroundings. Its architectural style will include squares and rectangles, sharp lines and a more angular approach. According to Dethier, stairs and an elevator will be built between and connect the new buildings, creating a visual “transition between the old and the new.”

As Dethier acknowledges, meeting Living Building standards “is necessarily going to cost more” than simply renovating Kellogg would.  Plans for renovation were temporarily halted for a little over a year while money was raised. When the cost exceeded the capital allocated by the College, foundations and alumni showed enthusiasm for the project and helped cover expenses.

“I think the alumni are enthusiastic about the project because it is different,” Dethier said. The Class of 1966 has been particularly engaged with the project, and are planning to support the endeavor as part of their 50th reunion gift.

According to Dethier, “when it became apparent that enough money was going to come in, we were off [again].” In return for their support, donors will be allowed to make specifications about the new building.

Dethier recognizes that Kellogg “may not meet the challenge,” he said, but regardless “we liked it as a stretch goal.”

Integrating the Living Building standards into renovation is much more difficult than creating a new building without adhering to strict environmental criteria. State standards and permits regarding water and sewage could create barriers.

However, the Kellogg House Building Committee is finding creative ways to work within state requirements, like using a well for a non-potable watering source for the gardens.

While President Falk and the committee have enthusiastically embraced the challenge, there is still uncertainty about details of the project.

“I don’t think we know perfectly yet what it is going to be like.” Dethier said.

One comment

  1. If more people could innovate green technologies that surpass the efficiency and prove cost effective, we would all be in a better world.

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