‘Do No Harm’ With Renovated Science Center

Eastern Mennonite University

 Create a building that will “do no harm.”

That was the mandate that EMU administration and Troyer Group architects heard from participants at a Jan.22 forum of some 200 staff, faculty, students, community members, and alumni at EMU.

EMU hosted the event to gather ideas and foster a sense of ownership in plans to renovate the existing Suter Science Center into a sustainable learning environment. Participants came to dream about innovation within the context of EMU’s core vision and mission, and its long-term commitment to sustainability.

Cal Redekop, retired sociologist, presented a brief overview of an Anabaptist perspective on earth care, to set the context for the day.

Bill Barnard, LEED-AP accredited architect with Troyer Group, summarized happenings in the green design industry and explained LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. LEED, managed by the U.S. Green Building Council provides a recognized framework and accountability system for talking about green building.

Participants called EMU to think carefully about how students learn best. Is it in a traditional classroom? They called for a building that will be a ‘living system’, have multiple uses round the clock, be flexible for future needs and foster collaboration among disciplines.

Geothermal or other energy efficient heating and cooling systems should be considered to minimize energy use, or even move toward carbon neutrality. Rainwater should be collected for irrigation, toilet flushing and other ‘grey water’ uses.

Noting the surrounding beauty of the Shenandoah Valley, participants called for planners to maximize views, and take advantage of natural light.

In true Mennonite fashion, participants called for all of these things while keeping simplicity and humility in the forefront.

Fourteen students — part of a green design class this semester — will research ideas generated at the forum, interact with the architects and learn from the process of participating in the planning and design of this building.

Earlier in the day, EMU physical plant director, Eldon Kurtz, reviewed EMU’s recognition as an energy efficient campus, detailing measures that have been taken over the past three decades to curb water and energy use.

Kirk Shisler, vice president for advancement, summarized the planning process to date. Current projections are for the cost of the project to be somewhere between $25 and $30 million, ‘by far the largest project EMU has ever undertaken’, according to Shisler.

The architects noted that the day’s input was invaluable. “Having these kinds of discussions on the front-end can save significant time and money in the long-run,” noted Barnard in his presentation.

— article by: Jim Bishop; posted January 28, 2008

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