ORL considers eco-friendly residence halls

by Kay Fukunaga | 11/14/02 6:00am

In the near future, Dartmouth students may move into new "eco-friendly" residence halls with features such as radiant floor heating or spiral-water reheating systems, College administrators report.

The new dorms, to be situated on the north side of Maynard Street across from Moore Hall, are still in the design and development phase, but they are the latest initiative through which the College will seek to become "greener."

The water-reheating system will operate under a spiraling system through which hot water that passes out of the shower stall through the drain will be used to preheat the cold water that is about to enter the faucet.

"We are also thinking of using a radiant floor system so even without a heating system, the floor will feel warm," said Woody Eckels, director of operations for the Office of Residential Life.

Besides the new floor heating and water-reheating systems, the College will also strive to utilize recycled materials in the construction of the dorms, as well as materials that can be acquired in Hanover and surrounding areas, Eckels said.

The College also intends to buy concrete with waste product from incinerators mixed in and use its own wood to construct dorm-room furnishings such as dressers, desks and chairs.

Additionally, the new dorms will be equipped with front-loading washing machines, which utilize less water than their top-loading counterparts.

In Hanover, where sewer bills are dependent on the amount of water that is used, front-loading washing machines will equate to lower costs, Eckels said.

"I was excited to learn that the washing and drying machines are of the highest energy efficiency -- including stacked dryers on front loading washers, for minimal water and energy usage," campus environmental activist Susan DuBois '05 said.

While some students echoed DuBois' enthusiasm with regard to the new steps the College will be taking, others said that there is still work to be done.

"There is no question as to whether the College can do more. The building that was just dedicated yesterday with great fanfare is an example of what not to build. Berry is perhaps the most inefficient building that the College has ever built," ECO coordinator Oliver Bernstein '03 said.

Bernstein cited the library's need for artificial heating, cooling and lighting as one of the main sources of that inefficiency.

"The fact that Dartmouth could build Berry Library today is ridiculous," Bernstein said.

Beside taking steps to cut back on energy expenditures, among the other ideas suggested by students was to implement features such as "composting toilets" to the dormitories.

Composting toilets, which utilize less water than typical flushing toilets, produce fertilizer. This in turn can be used for shrubs and other landscaping plants.

"Other 'green' buildings in New England ... have shown that composting toilets have a dramatic effect on reducing the use of water in a building without compromising the quality of the bathroom experience," Charlie White '02 said.

White cited the two-year drought in Hanover as an indication of the fact that as the College expands, it will either need to increase the water supply or implement new conservation measures.

Despite the recent budget cuts and the acknowledgement that undertaking new initiatives might be more costly for Dartmouth in the short-term, students highlighted their long-term cost benefits.

"The College should understand that real green building and green design can also make economic sense for them. Even though a building might cost more to build now, it can make that money up and more in terms of energy and resources saved over time," Bernstein said.

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