St. Vincent pavilion earns gold for energy use
With its expansive glass facade, solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling system, the Sis and Herman Dupre Science Pavilion at St. Vincent College was designed with the mission of the Benedictine order in mind.
“They're used to living off the land, and I think the monks that are there today continue to be committed to environmental sustainability,” said Alan Hohlfelder, principal architect on the project with MacLachlan, Cornelius and Filoni Inc.
The 110,000-square-foot building on the Unity campus has earned a gold certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
“It's a broad-based look at sustainability and construction,” Hohlfelder said.
The designation means the construction and management of the building scored between 60 and 79 points on a 100-point scale rating, including the following categories: site sustainability, water efficiency, energy optimization, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.
“Typical lab buildings are high energy consumers,” Hohlfelder said. “While the initial cost was higher, the payback in the long-term is going to be much greater for them because we've much less energy.”
The namesakes of the building, along with family and friends, donated $7.6 million toward the $39 million project that included renovations to three existing buildings, which took five years in four phases while the buildings remained in use by the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing.
The glass atrium has attracted more student foot traffic, said Larry Hendrick, facilities manager at the college.
“It's just a really cool place to hang out and study,” he said, especially when the ambient heat is captured through the glass and circulated at a comfortable temperature by using low windows and small chimneys on the roof.
The geothermal heating and cooling system regulates the temperature of the rest of the building through a loop system buried 4 feet below the surface in a 4-acre field 100 yards behind the pavilion.
Because the ground remains a constant 55 degrees, the system works to draw heat or cold from the building, depending on the season, Hohlfelder said.
“The earth sort of acts as a heat transfer” as the temperature is regulated through the wells, he said.
Geothermal systems are simpler and easier to maintain than more conventional mechanical systems, Hendrick said.
Landscaping outside the building was designed with drought-tolerant, water-efficient and low-maintenance plants.
The fixtures inside, such as motion-sensor lights and water-conserving plumbing, also contributed to the high rating of the newly completed building, which hosted an open house on March 11.
The pavilion will also be open to the public from 2 to 7 p.m. April 24 for the college's 10th annual Academic Conference featuring students' research.
Solar panels on the roof of the science facility also save energy consumption.
The 22.2-kilowatt system manufactured by Solar Power Industries Inc. in Rostraver includes 111 panels that each generate 200 watts, or about 33,000 kwh annually. More than 23,000 pounds of carbon monoxide are saved with the system, which can be studied through data tracked online at sunnyportal.com, Hendrick said.
The Fred M. Rogers Center, completed in 2009, is also LEED gold certified and contains a similar geothermal system.
Another system is being installed to heat and cool the Mary, Mother of Mercy Chapel and Mausoleum begun in November 2011.
The transition to the new systems has gone smoothly, Hendrick said, even though the geothermal systems take a bit longer to transition to a warmer or cooler temperature.
The architects worked well with faculty members, students, staffers and administrators and are satisfied with the finished product, Hohlfelder said.
“It's very gratifying to see them using the building and how excited they are,” he said.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or email@example.com.