College to convert lodges to sustainable eco-village

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April 16, 2010

6:03 AM

The College of William and Mary could soon become the country’s first “Do One Thing” university, with the planned construction of a sustainable eco-village that would incorporate the eight lodge residence halls located near the Sadler Center.

Vice President for Administration Anna Martin and Student Environmental Action Coalition member Caroline Cress ’10 unveiled the proposal at the College’s Board of Visitors meeting Thursday.
“It’s a big thinking project,” Cress said. “It spurred out of an idea to have a residence on campus based on sustainability.”

While recently completed buildings at the College, such as the Jamestown North and South residence halls and Alan B. Miller Hall, have incorporated sustainability efforts, the eco-village will be the first university community nationwide based on sustainability. According to Cress, the lodges are ideally suited for the location of the village.

“They are the absolute best place to live on campus, as far as students are concerned,” she said. “[But] mostly they’re in dire need of repair right now. They’re 60 years old. They do need to be renovated soon. The basic concept is taking the existing lodges to make them more sustainable.”

Traditional renovations of the lodges would cost between $300 to 400 per square foot, or approximately $300,000 to 450,000 per house. But renovations to create the eco-village would cost approximately $200,000 to 300,000 per lodge.

According to Cress and Martin, construction would include as much sustainable material as possible, such as reclaimed wood, recycled glass and plastic, insulation and so-called grey water systems, which employ non-potable water for uses like garden watering and toilets rather than simply disposing of it. It would also explore new technologies in energy production and collection, including high-efficiency batteries and solar panels.

“This is not a project where we’re asking for $10 or $20 million up front,” Martin said. “We can do this house by house.”

Cress said that the proposed renovation of the lodges would also provide research opportunities for sustainability efforts and technology. Each building would be fitted with sensors that would monitor and collect data on its environmental impact, including water usage, average temperature and energy consumption.

“Each lodge presents a different opportunity,” Cress said. “It’s an incredible opportunity for research, which is something we’re very excited about at William and Mary. The movement of sustainability in higher education is growing exponentially right now.”

The proposal also includes plans to build an outdoor classroom and gardens that could be used for sustainability classes and instruction at the College. In summer months, the area would be made available for tours of the eco-village, and for further research.

Although the College is planning serious changes for the lodges, annually the most popular on-campus housing options, there are no plans to remove them from the housing lottery.

“They will be lived in by everyone,” Cress said. “[It] will help teach everyone on campus how to live sustainably.”

Due to the experimental nature of the renovations, the College has placed no set timetable for construction. A $10,000 feasibility study funded through green fees has been announced to begin researching the project within the next year.

“This is not something that’s going to happen next year,” Martin said. “It’s going to happen over time.”

In accordance with the sustainability efforts headed by the Committee on Sustainability, College President Taylor Reveley has named the development of the eco-village to be the College’s DOT for sustainability. The plan will be presented to the College community during the annual Earth Day celebration April 24.

“Our DOT campaign is the first of its kind,” Reveley said in a press release. “Its success is a testament to the initiative, drive and commitment of the William [and] Mary community. Doing a host of small things can add up to a whole lot, and it can lead to big things.”

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