What goes beautifully with the warm glow of Kasota limestone and the sparkle of natural light? The luster of platinum. The Warren and Donna Beck Academic Hall at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. has earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification, the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Green Building Rating System™.
The three-story, 125,000 s.f. building opened in September 2011, the largest construction project on the Gustavus campus in 30 years and the fulfillment of a long and thoughtful process of planning to address ambitious goals for public and academic space, technology, richness of finishes and environmental stewardship.
Beck Academic Hall houses five academic departments, including classrooms, offices, psychology research laboratories, television and radio studios, and computer classrooms.
Numerous faculty and staff were deeply involved in the design and development of the higher education construction building. Excellent communication among the owner, architect BWBR and construction manager Kraus-Anderson was initiated from the earliest preconstruction stages and guided design decisions for mechanical/electrical, daylighting issues and other factors. KA’s early input in the design phase also helped the college meet high aesthetic goals through practical approaches, such as a precast exterior clad in Kasota limestone quarried just five miles from the campus.
“Beck Academic Hall has been a wonderful addition to our campus,” said Warren Wunderlich, director of the Gustavus Adolphus College Physical Plant. “The five departments that occupy the building include three of our largest majors. The buildings they came out of were not at all generous in informal study and gathering spaces. Beck Hall’s department-specific student interaction rooms, its central atrium and other informal spaces provide lots of study space opportunities.
“A number of LEED-influenced design decisions like its locally-quarried limestone exterior and its abundant daylighting contribute to Beck Hall’s appreciation by the campus community,” Wunderlich said. “And, its exceptional energy performance and highly durable finish materials have helped keep operating expenses low,” he added.
The building’s hallmark is its three-story central atrium, which serves as a primary gathering place.
The atrium helps maximize daylighting strategies, which include controls to dim or brighten artificial light in response to the amount of natural light that is available. Occupancy sensors dim lighting in unoccupied areas, and tell the HVAC system to adjust temperatures accordingly. Other energy-saving supplements include a comprehensive solar panel system with both photovoltaic (harvesting light for electricity) and solar thermal panels (harvesting daylight for energy to augment heat in cold months and dehumidification in warm months). The building exceeds State of Minnesota Sustainable Building 2030 targets, and is modeled to save 44 percent more energy and 30 percent more water than typical code requires.
A rigorous indoor air quality program was supported throughout construction, including wrapping and enclosing ductwork to prevent dust infiltration. In addition, 75 percent of the construction waste was recycled, including in some highly creative ways. KA superintendent Riley Smith gave the college’s then sculptor-in-residence, Greg Mueller, permission to scrounge the construction dumpster for art materials, which yielded some steel conduit cut-offs which were refashioned into candelabra used for the Christmas in Christ Chapel performance.
That’s sharing the light, indeed.