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ISSUE 118 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/29/2005

Celebrating our ‘Common Green’

By Various Contributors
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 29, 2005

When you meet friends in Fireside or read in the hallway cubbyholes on the way to the library, what you may not realize is that you are participating in the college’s sustainable vision.

Not only was Buntrock Commons designed in an environmentally-friendly manner, it was also designed to benefit our minds – to remind us that we are inevitably connected to the environment around us and to the human community that sustains us. In light of the fifth-year anniversary of Buntrock Commons and of Earth Day 2005, we hope to share with the St. Olaf community the environmental thought that went into the building design.

Often, we don’t realize the inexplicable connections between human and natural systems. “Planners tried to mesh the human purposes of the building with the larger patterns and flows of the natural world,” said Professor of History Jim Farrell, who was consulted during the design process.

To accomplish this goal, designers acquired elements from the natural world in a sustainable way to ensure the continued vitality of this relationship. Much of the wood you see in Buntrock comes from a sustainably-managed forest, and the mahogany in the building is from a hurricane wood program.

While the building’s limestone facade is a campus tradition, Buntrock features granite at its base to prevent deterioration when snow is piled against the walls.

In addition to being an aesthetic blend of Boe Chapel and Rolvaag Library, the slate roof of Buntrock has a 100-year life expectancy and needs minimal upkeep. Thought even went into the flooring of Buntrock Commons: Like the slate roof, the slate flooring in the building’s crossroads has a very long lifespan and can be washed without using chemical treatments.

Many of the carpeted areas are actually comprised of recyclable Interface-T carpet tiles, which make it possible to replace individual tiles without having to replace the entire carpet.

“We also considered simple questions like insulation so that the Commons contains its heat and cooling longer than it might otherwise,” Farrell said. Buntrock’s main windows are positioned to allow for maximum utilization of solar heat, while the skylights in the crossroads bring in natural light, simultaneously reducing the demand for electricity. The coveted “cubbyholes” are intended to give students a view of campus and a hint of the sun’s heat during the winter.

We should remember the words of environmental educator and author David Orr that “academic architecture has its own hidden curriculum that teaches as effectively as any course taught in them.” Buntrock teaches us to be members of not just one small community, but many interwoven communities that can be found in the interface of human and natural spheres. Next Earth Day, let us celebrate our common green.

Contributing writers Amber Collett and Willie Richards are sophomores, and Mark Werner is a first year. Collett is from Bettendorf, Iowa; Richards is from Minneapolis, Minn. and Werner is from Brookings, S.D. Collett majors in environmental studies and Russian areas study. Richards majors in environmental studies and philosophy. Werner majors in environmental studies.

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