More to come: examining the future of sustainable architecture at Dartmouth

The two newest additions to the West End were constructed with sustainability at the forefront of design.

by Anne Rhee | 2/11/22 2:00am

by Summer Hargrave / The Dartmouth

This article is featured in the 2022 Winter Carnival special issue. 

After construction began in 2019, the long-awaited Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society and the Center for Engineering and Computer Science are nearing completion, with the CECS being slated to open for classes this upcoming spring. Both buildings are collaborative long-term projects integrating different academic disciplines on campus and constructed with goals of sustainability and energy efficiency.

Elaine Hoffman and Arjun Mande, from architecture firm Goody Clancy, headed the design of the Irving Institute. The project is Goody Clancy’s third collaboration with Dartmouth; the first two — Whittemore Hall and the Tuck Living and Learning Complex — date back to 2002. 

Hoffman and Mande describe their past Dartmouth projects as paving the way for sustainable architecture on college campuses throughout the country.

“When we did the Living and Learning building, we had triple-glazing on the building in a very tight exterior envelope, which was new to the industry at the time,” Mande said. “Not everybody was doing it. So, Dartmouth was and is definitely way ahead than everyone else. The goal here was not only to make the Irving Institute as sustainable as possible from an energy perspective, but also to upgrade Murdough Hall, which [the Institute] is connected to through the atrium.”

After being selected by the College to design the Irving Institute in a design competition, Hoffman, project sustainability lead for the firm, and Mande, heading the design team, began planning. The effort, as a result, was a collaborative one, in which the two built off of each other to ensure that the project would be able to strike a balance between design and sustainability. 

Hoffman noted the importance and consideration that sustainability is given in design proposals in recent years.

“In the time that I’ve been practicing, [sustainability] has really been at the forefront of how people are trying to design,” said Hoffman. “In addition to thinking about operational energy, we’re pairing that with thinking more holistically about the embodied energy, the embodied carbon of the materials that are going into the building.”

Mande agreed, adding that the dynamic between designers and sustainability leaders has evolved to a point where designers and sustainability leaders work collaboratively. 

“There is an inherent tension between what the building should look [like] and what it should do versus the energy goals,” Mande said. “That tension is good and important because then a person like Elaine, who is the sustainability leader on a project, and me, who is the designer of the project, are basically pushing each other. …and it’s an equal tussle. Earlier it was the designers who were pushing the sustainability leaders around and winning, but I think that tension is helping us make buildings that are more responsible to what they should be for where we are today, as a planet.”

Both Hoffman and Mande pointed out different examples of features in the building that reflect this, such as the double-skinned glass facade at the center of the building, which is also a part of the natural ventilation system of the building. Others included wood flooring — to cut back on the carbon footprint of the building’s flooring materials — and the concrete mix, which minimized the use of new, non-recycled cement as much as possible.

While sustainability has always been viewed as a holistic goal in projects, energy reduction, in particular, was a specific goal that guided the project, according to Hoffman and Mande. The project had an annual target EUI — or energy usage intensity — of 20 KBTU. One feature that was especially innovative to the architects was the automated natural ventilation system, which adjusts the building’s ventilation system to take best advantage of outside environmental conditions. 

Another key feature of the building is radiant heating, which provides heat through metal-paneled ceilings and a radiant floor that supplies the atrium. Hoffman noted that it was “really nice” to design a building that has radiant heating for 100% of its occupied spaces.

Like the Irving Institute, the CECS was also constructed with the goal of energy reduction in mind. According to head architect Samir Srouji, the CECS is projected to have an EUI of 79 KBTU/square foot — an impressive feat, given that most comparable buildings have an EUI of 150-200 KBTU/square foot, he said. 

Srouji noted that the current transition to campus-wide sustainable architecture mirrors the one happening in the architecture industry — and in turn the construction industry and regulations.

“Architecture is leading [in sustainability] because buildings are big users of energy and resources,” Srouji said. “It took a while for the construction industry to follow… I remember when talks of sustainability started and it was a premium like ‘How much more money do I have to pay for this to make it a great building for the environment.’ Nobody talks [like] that anymore.”

A concern that Srouji and Matt Ellsworth, the other head architect of the CECS, emphasized was the importance of increasing natural light to improve the wellbeing of occupants. Ellsworth noted the atrium has coffers that filter in daylight. 

According to Sroji, designing a building that simultaneously incorporates energy reduction and the occupants’ well-being are the project’s two main achievements.

“The well-being part is really connecting people to daylight [and] to views, having the building not have any toxic chemicals [through the] choice of materials,” said Srouji. “[We’re] encouraging people to just walk instead of finding the elevator. We’re encouraging movement and walking, health and intermingling. That’s the thinking behind these two things; there’s a lot more, obviously, but those two [energy reduction and well-being] are key.”

In addition to possible LEED platinum certification, solar panels and storage spaces for bicycles, The architects collaborated with van Zelm Engineers to feature an advanced natural ventilation system in the CECS that makes adjustments to the air contained in the building in the case of smoke or a fire.

During the designing process, the CECS’ purpose — an additional building meant for Thayer — was expanded to house the computer science department, the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship and Electron Microscope Facility. As a result, Srouji and Ellsworth modified their designs to highlight the various wings of the building, which Srouji referred to as “solid cores, soft edges.”

“One wing is more computer science, and another is more Thayer, more engineering,” Srouji said. But since the building is shaped like a diamond with the atrium in the middle, things slip from one to the other, and of course, the heart — the atrium — is shared not just for those departments but as a campus social hub. There’s nothing else like it [the atrium] on campus. It’ll be a major attraction, we hope.”

Ellsworth noted that the CECS was designed in a way that aesthetically nodded to older buildings on campus. 

“The brick is the same brick that’s been used on the Thayer campus for a while now,” said Ellsworth. “It’s difficult as an architect because you want to design fresh, modern ways of thinking but in this case, there is a traditional aspect to Dartmouth that you want to maintain. We tried to use that palette with a modern twist while still respecting some of the traditional detailing on campus: the white windows, the brick coursing, the use of copper, detailing, granite as well.”

Dartmouth director of project management services Patrick O’Hern noted that at Dartmouth, the next step to a sustainable campus is changing its energy infrastructure. He noted that both Irving and CECS will be equipped with a new hot water heating system that will gradually be used across campus.

“The CECS and Irving are the first two buildings to be connected to a new hot water heating service, which is generated not that far from the McLaughlin cluster,” O’Hern said. “These two buildings are at the leading edge for where Dartmouth is going in terms of their energy use on campus.” 

Correction appended (11:15 p.m., Feb. 12, 2022): A previous version of this article made several incorrect references to the company involved with the Irving Institute, according to Elaine Hoffman. The company is Goody Clancy, not Goodly Clancy. Hoffman’s proper title is project sustainability lead, not head of the sustainability team. Hoffman and Arjun Mande headed the design, not the construction, of the Irving Institute. And one of the firm’s first projects at Dartmouth was Whittemore Hall, not the Tuck School of Business. The article has been corrected.