Pittsburgh’s Chatham University may become the greenest academic institution in the US when it completes the 20-year build-out now underway at its newest campus location.
Gifted to Chatham in 2008, the 388-acre property in Richland PA, was first a farm and later a retreat-style environment for women who worked at the Heinz cannery in Pittsburgh. It is the top of two watersheds – with creeks draining into the Beaver and Ohio Rivers, on to the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico– making it an ideal place for studying water systems, biodiversity and ecosystem health.
Eden Hall is complementary to Chatham’s main campus (20 miles to the south) — and master planned to be fully sustainable, water and waste neutral, zero net energy, with living buildings, and total onsite waste water management – as a living laboratory for students. When fully built out, the campus will serve 1200 students with residence halls, classrooms, aquaculture, working sustainable farm, heritage orchard and as an ecotourism destination for people interested in sustainability.
Chatham officials say, “It is the first academic community in the world built from the ground up for sustainable development, living, and learning.”
The University broke ground on Phase I in October on field labs, classrooms, a café, an amphitheater, a mosaic garden, and infrastructure development, to be completed by fall 2013. A dining hall and two residence halls supporting 150 beds are scheduled for completion in 2015. Costs for these stages of the project are estimated at $40 million.
The Eden Hall project is a standout in multiple ways:
First, the university took a year of internal review preparing a white paper on sustainability, to decide how best to utilize the acreage compatibly with curriculum and institutional goals.
It builds upon what main campus is already doing well in sustainability practices: 100% renewable energy (purchased), biodiesel mini-buses, bicycle support network, bottled water ban, trayless food service, food composting and more.
Officials selected a first-rate team to realize the vision of Eden Hall as a whole academic campus: BNIM (Bob Berkebile’s firm) and Andropogon Associates of Philadelphia (Jose Almiñana) and the architecture firm Mithun for building design. Read the full master plan online.
Students are already engaged in the project: master’s candidates in landscape architecture and interior architecture have a role in planning and design; food studies majors are working the land; science students are monitoring water, soil, forested areas and biodiversity to look at pre-construction conditions and possible impacts from onsite development.
Eden Hall is ultra-green because it is planned as the living laboratory for Chatham’s new School of Sustainability and the Environment. The academic programs, says Dean David Hassenzahl, will be framed in an interdisciplinary, problem-solving curriculum that meshes social scientists and hard-science types.
Students will learn how to address complex economic, social justice, and environmental issues. Every degree candidate is expected to have off-campus experiential learning to meet program requirements. The goal, says Hassenzahl, is transdisciplinary learning to solve problems, and then transferring that learning creatively to the marketplace.
Eden Hall will be kitted out with top-tier sustainable infrastructure and systems to make everything educational:
Photovoltaics and geothermal will make the campus totally carbon neutral (a heat exchanger will loop between buildings).
Waste water will never leave the campus – an onsite wastewater treatment system will handle black water, gray water and storm water with rain gardens, constructed wetlands, and other features.
Buildings will be LEED platinum, with classrooms adopting the living buildings challenge. A passive house demonstration will be featured.
Areas have been set aside for sustainable agriculture, raising chickens, greenhouse production, heritage orchard, apiaries, and aquaculture. A CSA will be starting in summer 2013.
Live, real time monitoring will demonstrate proof of efficiency and be used for teaching/learning online
As Chatham officials point out, “The future is not waiting.” Chatham’s coed, master’s-level food studies program is already in its third year, and the sustainability master’s started its first cohort this fall. Chatham already has a partnership with Earth University (Costa Rica) for academic exchanges.
Green New Update will continue to follow the Eden Hall project. Come back for updates!