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Chatham to go all-sustainable

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Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011

It wasn't a gift horse, but a 388-acre Richland farm that fell into Chatham University's lap in 2008.

On Tuesday, the school that counts Rachel Carson among its honored graduates revealed a 20-year plan to develop what it says is the nation's first fully sustainable university campus, at the Eden Hall Farm 20 miles north of Pittsburgh.

"As we studied this exceptional location, we began to see its transformative potential as the site of the nation's first comprehensive center for sustainability education," Chatham President Esther Barazzone said. "There are institutions that have environmental programs or green buildings in which to live, but none with an entire campus."

Pittsburgh has been a leader in so-called sustainable development efforts in recent years. The David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, is the world's largest certified environmentally friendly convention center.

"It's great to see Chatham taking it to the next level," said Aurora Sharrad, director of innovation for the Pittsburgh Green Building Alliance.

Chatham hopes to showcase Eden Hall for the world when the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education brings its national conference to Pittsburgh this fall.

The campus, which will house the new school of Sustainability and the Environment, will allow the 2,300-student university to grow by 1,000 students.

University officials envision the campus as a living laboratory that will allow students and researchers to develop new sustainable technologies and practices for export throughout the world.

"The master plan is about changing the rules and showing the world what's possible," said landscape architect Jose Alminana of Andropogon Associates LTD of Philadelphia, a partner in the project, which will feature residence halls built into the hillsides of the rolling farmland as well as a marshland based, natural wastewater treatment system.

The university expects to break ground for the first phase this spring. Tentative plans call for Eden Hall, which is already being used by several university programs, to open as a residential facility when the first phase of construction is complete in late 2012 or early 2013.

Costs for the first phase are estimated at $30 million to $40 million. Barazzone said Chatham has raised $20 million.

The late Sebastian Mueller, an H.J. Heinz Co. executive, developed Eden Hall a century ago as a rural retreat for women who worked in Heinz plants in the city. Upon his death, the Eden Hall Foundation took over operations and deeded the farm to Chatham.

David Hassenzahl, inaugural dean of the School of Sustainability, predicted the school and its new campus will meet a pent-up demand for integrated sustainability programs. The school began its initial effort from the Shadyside campus this fall. Hassenzahl said the university expected the first class in the master's program in food-service sustainability to draw 15 students; it now has 30 and enough applications for a larger class next year.




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