Note: This story appears in the Chatham University Spring 2015 Recorder alumni magazine.
Two and a half years after its groundbreaking, Eden Hall Campus continues to grow into an epicenter of sustainability and culture in the North Hills. Student commons and residence halls are taking shape, and endeavors to officially move the Falk School of Sustainability from the Shadyside Campus to its new home on Ridge Road have begun to unfold.
The Lodge, once a summer vacation home for female employees of the Heinz factories, is undergoing internal reconstruction as the future home of the Falk School faculty offices. Plans were developed by veteran space and facilities planner Charles Craig, a LEED- certified architect who has worked with Chatham since 1993, and is also working with Chatham on some renovations to the Shadyside Campus.
Craig worked with Falk School of Sustainability faculty and staff to identify creative and functional ways to reinterpret the Lodge for a modern office space. The aesthetic being considered for the Lodge embraces natural light flow and the collaborative spirit of sustainability. Office furniture will be mobile and independent of surrounding architecture, allowing workspaces to be reorganized quickly based on the needs of faculty, staff, and students. These movable studio offices will encourage impromptu collaboration and promote a more flexible use of space.
The student commons and residence halls are underway in preparation for use this fall. Walter Fowler, Vice President of Finance and CFO, attends weekly walk-throughs of the construction areas, and attests to the state-of-the-art design and efficiency of the buildings. “The residence halls are being built to LEED Platinum standards and are tightly constructed” he says, “with wall insulation over twenty inches thick and unique sustainable design features such as panels that run through the ceiling and control the air temperature.”
HERE’S A CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT MAKES THE RESIDENCE HALL EXTRAORDINARY:
Electricity: All power is provided by the solar panels on the roof of the residence hall. Eden Hall has over 400 solar panels across the campus that generate over 126,000 kilowatt-hours annually, easily enough to power more than 14 homes per year.
Water: Water in the residence hall is heated by solar thermal panels on its roof, and the toilet water is recycled from the the campus on-lot wastewater system. This system treats wastewater through a series of steps including constructed wetlands, a trickling filter, and a UV filter. Some of the water is dyed blue and used in the toilets in campus buildings, with the remaining being treated for irrigation on campus. The system treats up to 6,000 gallons of wastewater per day, and water quality will meet or exceed all State of Pennsylvania water quality standards for land application of treated effluent.
Heating and cooling: The residence hall is heated and cooled by Eden Hall’s geothermal system, which consists of just under 40 geothermal wells (mapped by GPS) across campus. These wells are about six inches wide and drilled 485 feet into the earth where two connected pipes are inserted into each well. A solution consisting of 75% water and 25% food grade propylene-glycol mix (which ensures that the water doesn’t freeze or harbor bacteria) is utilized within the pipes. The geothermal system uses the Earth’s temperature and energy storage capability to heat and cool the mixture, which is then pumped across campus into the buildings. In addition, a unique “heat loop” helps balance and share energy between the buildings as needed. In the residence hall, the geothermal-powered system runs the warm or cold mixture up into the ceilings of the rooms for a unique radiant heating and cooling system – the largest installation of its kind in the country.
Smart monitoring: A system that monitors energy use sends alerts to the facilities manager when it detects a change or inefficiency – for example, if a window is left open.
The first Eden Hall student residents will live in single-occupancy or suite-style rooms that foster a sense of family. A Wellness Community will support students as they transition to college life, offering a wealth of community-building opportunities and nature-focused activities in the spirit of sustainability.
The centrally located commons area will be the heart of the developing campus, and Fowler shared some intriguing news about its kitchen: “Eden Hall is a net zero campus, meaning we will produce as much energy as we use – except for the kitchen, which is an energy-intensive space due to its high heat needs,” he explained. “To counter this, we plan to run the appliances with microturbines that will generate that extra electricity the kitchen needs. They’ll first be run on natural gas, then switch to biofuels like methane once farm animals are added to the campus.” Even pots and pans are specially designed for this futuristic kitchen. The cooking range makes use of inductive heating, with the ability to almost instantly heat flat-bottomed cookware without losing heat to open air the way electric and gas ranges do. “Even if you removed the pan after cooking and felt the burner, it would be cool to the touch.”
While all of these highly efficient and modern technologies are said to dramatically reduce Eden Hall’s carbon footprint, where is the evidence? The commons building will have an energy monitoring facility in the lower levels to provide proof. Using a central software system, several flat screens will show real-time energy usage (and production) from each building on campus. Visitors will be able to see how the technology reduces energy use overall and adapts to different human uses.
In addition to construction and renovations that benefit people, plants are also being given extra support – lettuce, spinach, and Chinese cabbage to be specific. The Solar Hoop House, a structure designed to support young plants through the winter season, is already nurturing new life. Leafy green winter crops have been growing there since this January, tended by Chatham’s Master of Arts in Food Studies students. Operational since November of 2014, the hoop house can remain at 80 degrees even in the middle of winter. External solar panels heat water that flows in a closed loop system beneath the floor of the structure.
Traditional hoop houses without heating capabilities have been used at Eden Hall for the past four winter growing seasons, but cannot match the growing potential of a heated hoop house. Allen Matthews, a food studies faculty member active in local farming for over 40 years, said students were unable to grow the quantities they needed using that system. Now they support dining services at the Shadyside Campus with the produce food studies students grow, year round. Matthews says students can gain a real sense of the work needed to grow and successfully sell produce on a regular basis – a perfect example of Eden Hall’s living and learning mentality.
Chatham’s Eden Hall campus brings degree programming, continuing education and professional education classes, life-long learning opportunities and cultural events to the North Hills communities and surrounding region. In addition to Falk School of Sustainability programming, Eden Hall now offers convenient evening, weekend and online classes for undergraduate and graduate programs in business, education, psychology and nursing.
Following the success of last year’s Eden Hall Summer Series, this year’s Summer Event Series is set to run June through September and feature a few similar events as well as new programing. The series kicks off June 5th with a performance by the Pittsburgh Opera. A whole day will be devoted to celebrating the creativity of children with the KidsCan Festival in June, and more musical and theatrical acts for all ages are on the docket for the amphitheater. Sustainability workshops will return to the Field Labs and examine a new range of engaging topics. The popular Harvest Tasting Dinner will close the series in September, treating guests to farm-to-table fare grown by Eden Hall students.
Eden Hall is rising quickly with support from donors and students alike. Chatham hopes to create a balance of historical beauty coupled with cutting-edge technologies that show Western Pennsylvania and the world how to transition into the next era of human achievement that respects and supports people and planet.