Living-Learning Center

An exterior view of the new Living Learning Center

Welcome to Husson University’s Living Learning Center

The Edward O. and Mary Ellen Darling Learning Center is a five story, 61,500 square foot multi-use building composed of faculty offices, classrooms, circulation space and dormitories for 240 students. The building has many sustainable design features, one of which is the orientation of the building, maximizing the passive solar heat gain for the residential suites in the winter, thus limiting the time the heating system will be used. In the classrooms, the goal was to capture and distribute as much natural light as possible and utilize automatic lighting control systems. The Living Learning Center is seen as a “new beginning project” for the campus that is expected to be a symbol of the University’s commitment to quality education, rich student life, and care for the environment.

An architectural drawing showing the building orientation on campus.

Sustainable Sites:

The Living Learning Center site and Husson University are pedestrian friendly and  within a ½ mile of 12 basic services. Close proximity to basic services makes easier for students, faculty and staff to walk or bike to town, rather than drive.  In a commitment to open space, Husson University has designated green space on campus that is twice the size of the building footprint for the life of the building.

The construction of the building incorporated a white EPDM roof, (rather than a black roof) which aids in the reduction of the heat island effect on campus, and helps to reduce cooling loads in the summer.  The building will also incorporate 10% priority parking for Low Emissions and Fuel Efficient Vehicles.

Water Efficiency:

A picture of both the shower head and faucets.The building utilizes high efficiency fixtures to help lower water demand for the building. The dormitory suites are equipped with low flush toilets and the common bathrooms on the first floor have dual flush toilets and 1/8 gallon urinals. All lavatory faucets are installed with 0.5 gpm aerators which is about ½ the amount of water used in typical faucets. Shower fixtures were specifically chosen for their high-pressure low flow capabilities.

Saving water on the exterior landscaping was also a priority for the project. In order to eliminate the need for an irrigation system, plant species were selected based on their ability to thrive without permanent irrigation.  The species installed were either native or “improved natives” (species which are varieties of species native to Maine) which are known to thrive in the local climate with minimal attention. Though proper planning and research, the building’s landscaping will not require any irrigation system, saving the thousands of gallons of potable water. The project achieves a 52.5% water use reduction though the use of the very high efficiency water fixtures and no landscaping irrigation.

Energy Efficiency:

The project achieved an overall energy cost savings of 37.34%  with a 46.35%  energy use savings better than ASHRAE.  These savings were achieved through a variety of sustainable design features and efficient technology.

A picture of the solar panels located on the roof of the Living Learning CenterOn the roof of the building are five domestic solar hot water arrays. The arrays each contain 30 evacuated tubes, on a closed loop system containing propylene glycol. The propylene glycol absorbs heat from the sun and transfers the heat to warm the water. The solar arrays will help to reduce demand for hot water in the building through production of 21.9 Mbtu/year (per array), for a total of 109.5 Mbtu/yr with five arrays equal to 21,096 kWhs (These solar arrays save almost the same amount of annual energy as two single family homes at 12,773 kWh each!)   

Also located on the roof of the building are five ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilation) units, which recover sensible and latent heat from suite bathroom exhaust streams for the HVAC system. This adds approximately 60% recovered heat back to the ventilation supply. The heat is harnessed through energy recovery wheels inside the units, which rotate to precondition incoming outdoor air, with waste heat of the exhaust. The ERVs help to keep incoming air at comfortable temperature and moisture levels using less energy then typically required.

The original chillers were sized to provide more than double the building’s required load. To improve the efficiency of the system the chillers were downsized from original design and the savings was then used to purchase chillers which included variable speed drives to further increase the efficiency of the system. In addition, the building systems use R-410A refrigerant, which does not contain harmful ozone depleting chemicals.

The electrical system utilizes occupancy and daylight sensors to adjust the lighting based on activity in the rooms and available sunlight. Many of the light ballasts in the building are dimmable, allowing the lights to automatically brighten or dim based on the amount of sunlight picked up by the daylight sensors. The total lighting power density was lowered through using T8 and T5 fluorescent lamps. Overall, the lighting fixtures account for a 41%  energy savings from typical lighting as well as create a comfortable living and working environment.

A picture of the a high SHGC windowThe windows for the project were selected for their high SHGC ratings and low U-factor. SHGC is the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, which is a measurement of the amount of solar radiation that can pass through a window. During Maine’s cold winters, the high SHGC of the windows will allow for more heat from the sun to be captured, thus lowering heating demand of the building. Alternatively, the U-factor gauges a window’s resistance to heat flow, so a lower U-Value means better insulating properties and less heat loss.

A picture of a copper coil pip.To help lower heating demand of hot water, a drain water heat recovery system was installed. The system utilizes a power-pipe system to reclaim heat from the waste shower water. The design allows for the transfer of waste heat to the cold water supply with an efficiency of 55%. The waste heat is recovered when the warm shower water drains through the pipes, which are wrapped in copper coil pipe holding the cold water. The warmer shower water then raises the temperature of the cold water in the coils. The combination of the heat recovery system and low flow fixtures will amount to a hot water savings of 66% .

The building’s walls are insulated with six inches cellulose insulation outside of the building’s structural framing. Rigid foam insulation was added to the exterior of the building envelope for an additional level of air tightness. With a highly insulated envelope, the building’s walls were designed to be entirely outside the structure framing. The completely exterior shell creates a highly insulated building envelope with minimal thermal breaks, keeping the conditioned space comfortable and preventing the infiltration of heat or cold from the outside into the conditioned space. Evidence of this design can be seen throughout the building where some of the structural steel was left exposed.

Husson has signed a Green Power Agreement, which will purchase Green-e Certified Clean Source Power for 100% of the building’s energy use for 2 years, totaling 953,570 kWh. Green-e power comes from renewable resources, including wind, biomass, small hydro and geothermal power. This clean energy is enough to cover the annual energy use of 74 ½ single-family homes!

Based on the Energy Model, the total annual energy savings of the building will be will be roughly (2,386,610 kBtu/year) 699,446 kWh equal to about 55 single-family homes annual consumption. These energy savings are equal to a 26% CO2 eq emissions reduction.

Materials and Resources:

The Living Learning Center was built using many sustainable materials. Common sustainable materials typically include recycled content or were extracted and manufactured in close proximity to the project. The building also has dedicated recycling and storage areas, making recycling convenient for occupants and helping to increase recycling rates on campus.

Exterior window with brick sidingDuring construction, 85% of construction waste was separated into dedicated dumpsters for wood, metal, concrete and other materials. The separated materials were then recycled, rather than being sent to a landfill.

As mentioned above, many of the products used in the construction were selected for their sustainable characteristics, which include: recycled content, regional extraction and manufacture, low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds), and no added urea-formaldehyde.

Regional materials that were extracted and manufactured within 500 miles of the project site include: bricks, cement, aggregate, concrete blocks, metal framing and gypsum board. Selecting materials that originate near a project, means lower delivery costs and less CO2 put into the atmosphere.

Exterior sidingRecycled Content: For this project, the structural steel, metal siding, particleboard, joint reinforcements, grout, fireproofing, metal framing and gypsum board all contain recycled content. A good amount of effort went into researching, purchasing and documenting products with high recycled content. Using recycled materials minimizes the amount of raw materials that need to be extracted from the natural environment and the amount of chemicals that are created during the manufacturing process.

Indoor Environmental Quality:

The Living Learning Center was constructed with indoor environmental quality in mind. The building has demand control ventilation, which is triggered by CO2 sensors scattered throughout the building. When CO2 levels get too high, the system switches on to help pull out stale air and pull in fresh air from the outdoors. To help maintain clean indoor air, smoking is prohibited within at least 50ft of the building eliminating smoke from entering through building entrances and air intakes. Dormitory windows are operable, allowing occupants an additional option to control the comfort of their indoor environment.

Special care was also taken to select materials that contain low VOCs. These materials Include: adhesives & sealants, paints and carpeting. Products with low VOCs (Volitile Organic Compounds) or no VOCs are a much healthier choice when selecting materials for a construction project.  VOCs are emitted as gases from certain chemicals both solid and liquid. Indoor VOC concentrations are higher indoors (up to 10 times higher) than outdoors and they can cause both short and long term health effects.

A picture of an interior stairwell in the Living Learning CenterOn the north side of the building, the stairwells were specifically designed to include large windows. Providing windows in the stairwell makes for a much more inviting space, reducing energy use that would have been used in taking the elevator. As seen in the image, the natural light makes the stairwell an attractive space, especially when compared to typical stairwells that can be dark and confining.

Innovation in Design:

The building is equipped with a Green Education dashboard, which will provided water and electricity usage data in order to create awareness and modify occupant behavior. The system will also include slides that highlight the sustainable features of the building. The dashboard serves as a centerpiece of the first floor providing occupants with easily accessible information on the building they occupy.

The campus has also established a Green Cleaning policy, which requires the implementation of a high performance cleaning program, purchase and use of sustainable cleaning products and materials, which meet Green Seal, Environmental Choice, or other LEED accepted standards.  This will help to reduce the exposure of building occupants and maintenance staff to potentially harmful chemicals as well as reduce the impact cleaning products have on the environment.