"We wanted it to feel unassuming, as if it's always been here," said Pete Sandberg, Assistant Vice President for Facilities. The Science Center will blend into the forest, its parapet standing lower than the adjacent Holland Hall's tower. And while the larva-staged construction site might attract attention, the new design will blend nicely with the integrity of the campus.
Just as the Science Center design seeks to match campus appearance, many aspects of the building's construction incorporate the St. Olaf sustainability campaign. A fence runs around the parameter of the Science Center keeping the interested public out, but it also marks a forest protection zone. As is written into the building contract, if any aspect of construction harms a tree beyond that fence, according to Sandberg, the penetrator "will pay."
In accordance with the environmental sustainability campaign championed by the new Science Center, two thirds of the East wing's roof will actually be greenshingled in drought tolerant plants. Most of the plants for the roof belong to the genus sedum, known for their thick, fleshy leaves and stems.
Charles Umbanhowar, Jr., professor of biology and chair of the environmental studies department, has created a botanical plan that protects the roof and helps control temperature in the building. According to Umbanhowar, as the plants absorb storm run-off, they "filter out heavy metals," so water that actually finds the roof won't damage the environment as harshly it would otherwise. Water held by the plants and soil will then evaporate.
Umbanhowar said that the green roof will "reflect the sun's light back into space" to keep heat out and provide an extra layer of insulation. Both processes help keep heating and cooling costs - and energy usage - down.
The roof will be a fully accessible garden to the public, designed to surround the astronomy equipment and facilitate biology research. The department plans to have a Planting Party in May 2008 which will offer an opportunity for all members of the campus community to plant the roof. A display next to Holland Hall shows the types of plants under consideration for the project, and gives more information.
The design of the new Science Center seeks to save energy in other ways as well. Science buildings regulate much more airflow and energy than most buildings. To limit energy usage, the building will reclaim heat generated in lab exhaust and use that heat to help fuel and heat the building itself. Overall, the Science Center will only use 60 percent of the code-allotted energy set for buildings of its type. Sandberg explained that the Science Center shouldn't affect overall campus energy consumption either. "On average, the campus takes 130,000 BTU per square foot to operate. We plan to remain at that number," he said.
The effort St. Olaf has taken to create an efficient building will be recognized on a national scale. The United States Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED assigns point values to sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor quality and innovation and design process. Total point value determines the level of performance. The Science Center has already reached a point total eligible for the Gold Level, third highest of four.
When the building opens next fall, students will benefit from six 75-seat lecture halls, hallways of teaching labs and research facilities, an excellent new Science library, and more available parking on campus.