WCU board OKs financing for Harrill Hall energy renovations

The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees authorized the issuance of special obligation bonds to jumpstart renovations to a 38-year-old residence hall, including energy efficiency improvements that would enable the building to qualify for LEED certification.

Approval of the bonds as a bridge loan came during the board’s regular quarterly meeting Friday, March 11.

Work is scheduled to begin in May on improvements to Harrill Hall, a 400-bed facility dedicated in April 1973. The project should be completed by August 2012.

The estimated $15 million project, previously approved by the University of North Carolina system, will include extensive upgrades to outdated heating, ventilation, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems. Plans call for the installation of a rooftop rainwater collection system to provide water for flushing toilets, solar panels to supplement water heating, and geothermal wells for heating and cooling.

University Architect Galen May said the new dorm will also allow students to be high energy conscious. An energy monitor will be added to each floor or each pair of floors that will allow students to monitor their energy consumption. A dashboard will also be in the lobby for all the residents to view the energy consumption throughout the entire dorm. The goal is to make residents aware of how much energy is being used and how much of that energy can be saved.

When the renovations are complete, Harrill Hall should qualify for LEED certification at the silver or gold level, said Gerald Kiser, WCU Board of Trustees member.

The project will be paid for by student housing fees when the building is back on line.

Harrill Hall is named in honor of W.B. Harrill, who was credited with building WCU’s summer school and public relations programs over a 19-year span from 1947 to 1966.

Developed by the United States Green Building Council, LEED – which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is a widely accepted environmental design and green building certification.

Harrill Hall would be the second building at WCU build to LEED certification standards. The new Health and Human Sciences Building, currently under construction, will be LEED certified at the silver level.

Unlike the many construction sites on campus, renovations to Harrill Hall is not expected to affect students’ walking or driving routes. The student housing on campus will also not be affected. With the addition of Balsam and Blue Ridge Hall last semester, there will be dorms to accommodate WCU students who would have chosen to stay in Harrill.