Freshman Housing Project Filled With Sustainable Features and, It Is Hoped, a Sense of Home

Issue Date: 
November 7, 2011
Housing Project Filled With Sustainable Features and a Sense of HomeHousing Project Filled With Sustainable Features and a Sense of Home

By Fall 2013, incoming freshmen will have not only a convenient place to live, but a sustainable one as well. Among the construction projects approved by the Pitt Board of Trustees on Oct. 28 was the Freshman Housing Project, a 10-story building being erected at the corner of Fifth Avenue and University Place that will house 559 beds and contain an array of sustainable features.

The $59 million project was identified as a priority in the University’s facilities plan, adopted in 2006, which sought to provide more space for Pitt’s increasing number of incoming freshmen while, at the same time, remaining eco-friendly.

“The housing project was conceived around the concept of sustainability, specifically in terms of promoting student-based initiatives,” said Christin Whitco, senior project manager in Pitt’s Department of Planning, Design, and Construction and a specialist in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. “The project is giving students the tools they need to live greener lifestyles.”

Among those tools are spacious community areas, recycling on all floors, and monitoring of energy usage within the building to encourage peer-to-peer energy competitions. Commercial retail shops are planned for the first floor, while a Wellness Center will be located on the second floor. Pitt officials hope the building’s sustainable environment—and central location on campus—will promote a sense of community for incoming freshmen.

“Because of the building’s convenient location, students will know what’s in close proximity to them; they will have access to public transportation and will be able to get around and really feel like this is home,” said Canard Grigsby, project manager in the Department of Planning, Design, and Construction.

The Freshman Housing Project is on track for a LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, the second of four certification levels related to sustainable practices. Below is a list of the project’s sustainable features:

• Access to 20 bus stops with 23 different bus lines within a quarter-mile radius;

• Light-colored pavement and a light-colored roof to reduce the heat island effect and better save energy;

• Landscape features including drought-tolerant plants, which require no irrigation;

• High-efficiency plumbing fixtures that should reduce overall water use by more than 35 percent;

• Third-party engineering team verification to ensure the actual design, installation, and operation are correct and done according to the owner’s needs to optimize energy efficiency;

• A final building composed of 20 percent post-industrial/post-consumer recycled-content materials;

• Twenty percent of building materials sourced, extracted, manufactured, and assembled within 500 miles of the project;

• More than 50 percent of the construction waste diverted from landfill;

• Usage of low-volatile organic compounds as well as safe construction components and finishes to promote better air quality;

• Lighting and thermal comfort controls; and

• Exterior envelope design to provide improved energy performance.

The lead architectectural firm on the project is Mackey Mitchell Architects, a group that has extensive experience with sustainability and has worked with such other top institutions of higher education as the University of Notre Dame, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and Washington University in St. Louis. The lead contractor is P.J. Dick.