Life in Our Green Home
First-year student Eric Dauenhauer strolls down the exterior hallway of the new Sanborn Hall on his way back from an afternoon Media Studies class. As the Santa Ana winds tousle his hair a bit, Eric notices that the top-half of Terra Michalowski's Dutch door is open and he pokes his head in. “Hey, you wanna go to dinner later?” he asks. “Sure, I'll stop by your room in a bit,” she replies.
The architect's idea of incorporating Dutch doors was well received by the entire Pitzer College community and this feature is perhaps the best example of the buildings' green and community features uniting. By swinging open the top half of their Dutch doors, students not only allow for increased cross ventilation and thereby less energy consumption, but they also invite fellow classmates to say “hello” while still maintaining a level of privacy.
With the opening of the new residence halls, Pitzer has entered a new era of its relatively short existence, paving the way for a bright future built upon its strong social and environmental values. Yet when it comes down to measuring the results of this long-time-in-the-making project, it's all about the students and their experiences. As a senior and first-year mentor who lives in the new complex, I would like to share what the buildings' greenness really means to us and highlight some of my observations of how student life has changed.
A building can only be as environmentally friendly as is appropriate for its use. In the case of the new Atherton, Sanborn and Pitzer Halls, I think that a good balance was reached between implementing green features and satisfying students' needs and lifestyles. As a matter of fact, most of the green features are incorporated so well that they have seamlessly become a part of our daily lives. For instance, if a window inside one of the rooms is opened, the air conditioning automatically shuts off. Features like this demonstrate that it's not hard to change the way buildings are constructed while still retaining the same levels of luxury and functionality.
Speaking of luxury, I would like to stress what an improvement these residence halls are for students' daily lives. First, they are aesthetically pleasing. Gone is the bland, white-walled military barrack look of the oldSanborn Hall. Students admire Atherton, Sanborn and Pitzer Halls' colorfully-painted walls and doors, a style that reflects well against our desert landscape. Nearly every time I show people around they exclaim, with a twinge of yearning in their voices, “Wow, this place looks like some sort of resort hotel!”
They are not too far off from reality. After all, it can be easy to forget about midterms and homework assignments when lounging by the pool on a warm, sunny day, surrounded by the new halls, watching your friends walk along the outdoor hallways on their way to join you. Had enough sun? Hop down to the lower level of the Gold Student Center right behind you and get a workout in at the newly-improved fitness center. Time to eat? The dining hall is just around the corner.
Even more important than dramatic improvements in luxury, the new residence halls have created an improved social climate for the first-year class. The long profiles of Atherton, Sanborn and Pitzer Halls and their rectangular placement around the Gold Student Center allow one to see nearly every hallway of the other buildings and the entire inner courtyard from most places within the complex. This facilitates fluid movement and interaction among students who live in each hall. Furthermore, the hallways feature inward-facing benches, providing a great place for students to hang out. The addition of approximately twenty-five naturally-lit common study rooms throughout the new residence halls adds to the community feel and function. Another drastic difference is the addition of the faculty-in-residence program, raising student-faculty interaction to a new level.
The new residence halls are also helping to further push the quality and diversity of the student body. They are a major selling point for bright, motivated prospective students who share Pitzer's environmental and social values. My mentee Pablo Veliz '11 even told me that the new residence halls were the tipping point in his decision to come here rather than another top-tier liberal arts college.
It's one thing to preach sustainability and another to practice it. Of course, Pitzer has been practicing sustainability in many different forms for decades, but these new residence halls are the most visible and dramatic proof that we are serious about our commitment to the environment, and people are taking note. The recent storm of media exposure that the College is receiving is excellent for spreading the word about us and what we are all about, helping open up the pool of potential applicants. It makes me feel great to say that I live in one of the country's first soon-to-be Gold LEED certified residence halls, and I know that this sentiment is shared among my fellow students living here as well.