WCU Harrill Residence Hall ‘green’ renovation project to begin

A $15.5 million renovation of a nearly 40-year-old residence hall at Western Carolina University set to begin in mid-July features enough energy-saving and sustainability features to qualify the building for LEED certification.

“As part of our campus planning, we have evaluated all residence halls and determined which facilities need to be replaced and which can be renovated, and Harrill Residence Hall was one we were excited to be able to develop a practical – and also green –  design to modernize,” said Keith Corzine, director of residential living. “This renovation is just another step in realizing a better overall quality of student life here at WCU.

In addition to reconfiguring Harrill Hall’s living area into air-conditioned suites with expanded gathering spaces and a nearly 6,000 square-foot addition, Winston-Salem-based New Atlantic Contracting will install a geothermal heating and air-conditioning system. The system harnesses the earth’s energy by transferring heat absorbed by the earth via geothermal wells to heat the building, heat water for showers and power the air-conditioning system. That means savings in operational costs in the long run, said Corzine.

Also, to improve energy efficiency, exterior wall insulation and canopies to control sunlight entering the building will be constructed. Charging stations will be made available for electric vehicles, and a stormwater retention system will be used to control runoff from parking lots into the creek.  A proposed rooftop rainwater collection system to provide water for flushing toilets and solar panels to supplement water heating were removed from the project to bring it within budget.

The renovation, which is expected to take about a year, will adapt living space into two-room suites that share toilets and showers. Each room will have a sink and mirror, and movable furniture instead of built-in furniture. Kitchenettes and lounges will be constructed on each floor across from an elevator as part of a design to better separate noisy and quiet activities. Also, a new, two-story addition will house a mechanical room, work area for residential living staff, and a dividable multi-use and meeting area.

Harrill is the first of WCU’s older residence halls to get a facelift to coincide with university master plan design guideline and to incorporate new building systems, said Wiley Harris, director of facilities planning, design and construction. Select materials and systems used in the renovation will provide the opportunity to seek silver and possible gold certification under LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, standards developed by the United States Green Building Council.

“The renovation at Harrill Hall signifies WCU’s commitment to creating sustainable living environments that are healthy for our students,” said Lauren Bishop, WCU energy manager. “The structure and its improved systems will act as an active learning tool for educating and preparing our student for the green side of technology.”