Sustainability

Pitzer Goes Platinum: The Residential Life Project

In 2001, Pitzer reimagined its campus. The College committed itself to expanding in an environmentally responsible fashion and proving that green blueprints could shrink carbon footprints. The 2003 Housing Master Plan proposed new residence halls designed with both architectural flair and eco-friendly features.

The first phase of Pitzer’s Residential Life Project was so green it won gold, earning top marks from the US Green Building Council (USGBC). Opened in fall 2007, the new residence halls of Phase I—Atherton Hall, Pitzer Hall and Sanborn Hall—received USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.

Five years later, Phase II of the project earned LEED Platinum, USGBC’s highest possible endorsement. Home to more than 300 students, Phase II houses the Mosbacher/Gartrell Center for Media Experimentation and Activism, the Pitzer Archive and Conference Center, the Kallick Family Gallery and the Office of Study Abroad and International Programs. The four Phase II buildings feature seminar rooms, multimedia editing suites, a demonstration kitchen and apartments for live-in staff and faculty.

More than 40 sustainable features have been incorporated into the design of the residence halls, including:

  • Generating electricity with fossil fuels is the largest single source of CO2 emissions in the US, accounting for about 40 percent of the nation’s total CO2 emissions. Solar panels on Phase I buildings provide about 28,000 kilowatt hours of renewable energy annually. Solar power is quadrupled in Phase II buildings, generating about 118,000 kilowatt hours and reducing CO2 emissions by more than 300,000 pounds per year.
  • • The green roof in Phase I blankets about 1,200 square feet, covering the roof with vegetation that helps insulate the building and generate oxygen. The green roof areas in Phase II encompass about 5,000 square feet. Phase II also features a living wall, creating a vertical garden to help filter and feed the air. Green roofs and living walls reduce the amount of rainwater runoff and the “heat island effect”—the increased temperatures in urban areas largely caused by buildings with dark, non-reflective surfaces that absorb heat.
  • • In Phase II, a graywater system collects and treats water from showers and sinks. This graywater provides all the irrigation for Phase II landscaping, up to 90,000 gallons per month.  
  • Permeable concrete has been used in both phases for various hardscape elements such as courtyards and walkways. Permeable concrete is as structurally sound as typical concrete but is more porous, increasing the amount of storm water that seeps into the aquifer.
  • • Storm water retention basins also capture rain runoff, storing the water and allowing it to percolate into the aquifer through a large perforated pipe system.
  • • The residence halls were constructed with materials made from recycled content, including structural steel, concrete, gypsum board, carpeting and insulation. Approximately half of the wood-based materials came from established, managed forests. Waste from the construction site was carted off for recycling or reused on campus.
  • • Recycled, renewable and regional: The residence halls were constructed with materials made from recycled content, including structural steel, concrete, gypsum board, carpeting and insulation. More than 20 percent of these materials were manufactured within 500 miles of campus. Approximately half of the wood-based materials came from established, managed forests. Waste from the construction site was carted off for recycling or reused on campus. After Sanborn Hall was demolished in Phase I, a portion of the building was ground up and used as base material to structurally reinforce the new basketball courts.
  • • In Phase II, the green-belt areas that encompass the new residential halls are equal in size to the footprint and hardscape of each building. The amount of open green space and roofs exceeds zoning requirements by 68 percent.
  • Drought-tolerant plants dominate surrounding landscaping. Water usage is kept to a minimum through high-efficiency irrigation with a control system that adjusts to changing weather conditions. All the water needed for Phase II irrigation will be met through the graywater system.
  • • Bathrooms feature low-flow shower heads, faucets and toilets. Through these and other measures, Pitzer has decreased water usage since 2002 by nearly 50 percent.
  • • The buildings are heated and cooled with high-efficiency chillers, boilers and pumps. Along with the use of energy-efficient lighting, insulation and windows that allow for natural ventilation, this heating and cooling system keeps energy consumption about 30 percent lower than LEED baseline standards, translating into a cost savings of approximately $35,000 a year.
  • Low-emitting adhesives, sealants, paints and carpets are used in residential rooms and halls, reducing the amount of off-gassing and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the atmosphere.
  • Brochure: Live, Learn LEED