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Inside Graham Hall

The latest entry in SCU’s green parade is Graham Hall—where freshmen and sophomores co-exist with the bright promise of sustainability.

Following demolition of the old Graham buildings and 12 months of construction, the new residence hall opened its doors this fall. For students who now call it home, Graham Hall offers exceptional living conditions and a host of amenities, many of which also benefit the environment.

From its roomy mini-suites to its automatic light switches, “nothing is lacking in this building,” said Joe Sugg, assistant vice president of University Operations. 

Located across from the Learning Commons, at the corner of Market Street and The Alameda, Graham Hall encompasses about 125,000 square feet. Inside, are 96 mini-suites designed for four students each, who share two standard double rooms and a connecting bathroom. There are also lounges, full kitchens, and laundry facilities for every eight-room “neighborhood.” In addition, the residence hall has two classrooms, a small theater, outdoor barbecue and picnic areas and a large courtyard at the heart of the building. 

“It’s a terrific place for students to live and learn and collaborate,” said Sugg. “And, it will provide them with an education in sustainability, as well.”

Breaking Ground and Striking Gold

Before the first bulldozer bit into the ground, SCU officials registered the new residence facility with the U.S. Green Building Council. That agency administers LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), an internationally recognized rating system that measures a building’s sustainability. The LEED program has four certification levels for new construction: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. With Graham Hall, the University is aiming for gold certification.

Sugg explained that LEED evaluators rate such categories as water and energy conservation, resource management, and air quality. He has no doubt that Graham Hall will ace these and all other sustainability tests conducted by LEED.

“As one example,” he said, “our building uses about 40 percent less energy than the strictest standard in California.” He also noted other eco-friendly features of the new residence hall, including low-flow faucets, an irrigation system that captures storm water, and returns it into the ground, low-powered, high-intensity lights throughout the building, an insulated green roof to reflect heat, and carbon dioxide sensors that can be adjusted to maintain good air quality in the two classrooms.

Also impressive is the fact that about 90 percent of the demolition waste, including most of the concrete and all roof tiles from the old Graham site, was recycled or reused.

Stealth Sustainability 

Many of the green practices and materials that went into constructing the new building will go unnoticed by those living in Graham Hall. Other elements, however, will be hard to miss. When a student wanting a breath of fresh air opens one of the building’s operable windows, for instance, a micro-switch on that window will shut off the air conditioning. If a student flips a light switch and the room is already bathed in natural light, the electric light will dim. And, who can overlook the recycling and composting stations in each of the hall’s 12 kitchens?

"We hope to divert a lot of food waste through composting,” said Sugg. “It’s easy to do, but it will probably take some cultural adjustment on the part of the students.”

For those who wish to delve further into the eco-friendly personality of Graham Hall, there are opportunities. According to Lindsey Cromwell Kalkbrenner, director of the University’s Office of Sustainability, special signs are posted along the first-floor hallways, explaining the green features of the building.

 “People will read a brief description, and they can scan a code to go to a website with more information,” she noted. Visitors can also check out the new residence hall while on SCU’s Self-Guided Sustainability Tour. Participants follow the mapped route to 16 sustainable campus buildings and areas. Graham Hall is stop 14 along the way.     

To view a slideshow of Graham Hall click HERE.

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