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New Graham residence hall set to achieve LEED Gold certification

Friday, Sep. 14, 2012

With the highest number of applicants for the 2012-2013 school year, the new Graham Hall is a highly sought-after place to live for Santa Clara’s undergraduate students living on campus.

The Office of Sustainability, however, would like to think the real draw for the record number of applicants is Graham’s innovative sustainability features. Set to achieve a U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, Graham excels in categories of environmental design such as site and materials conservation, water use, energy conservation, and air quality.

Waste diversion in Graham Hall. Photo courtesy of SCU Office of SustainabilityGraham’s materials conservation efforts aim to reduce the building’s overall carbon footprint while providing large quantities of area left as open space. Featuring a comprehensive waste diversion system that promotes recycling and composting, Graham also encourages reuse of materials, as most of the new roof is made from salvaged tiles.

As one of Rain gardens reduce runoff at Graham. Photo courtesy of SCU Office of Sustainability the leading residence halls on campus for water conservation and efficiency, Graham will have numerous water bottle filling stations for residents who wish to use a reusable water bottle. Residents in Graham will also automatically conserve more water than residents in other buildings due to the low-flow fixtures that have been installed in resident bathrooms. Graham’s innovative rain gardens will help reduce runoff and pollution, and the entire site will use recycled water for irrigation and landscaping purposes.

GCool roofing reduces energy use in Graham Hall. Photo courtesy of SCU Office of Sustainability raham’s energy-conscious design uses high efficiency windows and air conditioning as well as reflective roofing and enhanced insulation to reduce energy use while keeping rooms more comfortable for residents. State of the art “smart systems” have been installed to provide an energy efficiency fail-safe for residents. These window installations are small switches that automatically shut off a room’s air system when the windows are open, which will go a long way in conserving energy and reducing SCU’s electricity costs.

Graham Hall has added bicycle capacity. Photo courtesy of SCU Office of Sustainability Finally, Graham excels in the LEED category of indoor air quality, and the building’s transit-oriented development provides accessible public transportation options that reduce overall carbon emissions. Graham’s full bicycle parking capacity and SCU’s car sharing program minimize the necessity for students to bring their cars to campus, which will help SCU reach its goal of being carbon neutral by the end of 2015.

Many members of the campus community are proud to have played a role in the planning and development processes of the new Graham building. Joe Sugg, Assistant Vice President of University Operations, says Graham “opens new and unique opportunities for freshman and sophomore students to live, learn, and collaborate in a quality, sustainable environment.”

This sustainable environment was not an easy project to design, though, as Joe notes, “the challenges to achieve a LEED Gold rating in a residence hall are formidable due to the many code and operational requirements that seem to conflict with sustainable design. However, the team of Housing, University Operations, Hallmark Construction, and WRD Architects provided a complex that meets LEED standards in every section of the criteria.”

Housing Director Mako Ushihara is also very proud of Graham Hall. "Santa Clara has been constructing buildings with LEED certifcation criteria in mind for the past few years," he says, "but more recently we have chosen to document this commitment to sustainable design by seeking LEED certification." This commitment has resulted in a LEED Gold certification for the new Graham building, which is the first residence hall on campus to achieve this prestigious distinction.

While Mako is proud in particular of Graham's use of recycled materials for much of the building's construction, he also notes how "the design of the building also allows a lot of natural light into many of the residential and common spaces making the overall feel of the building very open and inviting." This combination of sustainable design and added comfort for residences is perhaps the reason Graham received well over 800 housing applications from first year students.

Santa Clara has set a standard for sustainable design with its new buildings such as the LEED Gold certified Locatelli Activity Center and the Learning Commons, among others. Graham’s achievements are part of a newly emerging norm for sustainable building design on campus–something SCU should certainly be proud of.

Those who have worked on the new Graham project aren’t the only ones excited to see it completed. Incoming freshman Brooke Satre, who was lucky enough to secure one of Graham’s mini-suite units for the 2012-2013 school year, can’t wait to move into Graham this September. While she admits the main reason she applied to live in Graham was because “it is the newest residence hall on campus,” she also explains that she is excited to live in such a sustainable building.

“I heard about some of Graham’s sustainable features during orientation,” she says, “and that made me more excited to live there because sustainable living is something that is important to me. I think it will be easier for myself and other residents to reduce our environmental impact simply because Graham is built so sustainably, which is great.”

The new Graham complex is home to the Alpha RLC and houses freshman and sophomores at Santa Clara.

By Aven Satre-Meloy, '13 Sustainability Intern -- Communications

Tags: Buildings and Grounds, Campus Operations, Program Highlights, Residence Life



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