Greening of Aiken

Poor air quality, problems with windows and the roof, lack of adequate insulation and an overall lack of energy efficiency have, for some time now, raised a red flag at the Aiken Center of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.In May 2004, more than 100 students, faculty and others took part in a two-day design competition in which the top four architectural firms out of the 24 that entered presented designs for the project.William Maclay Architects and Planners of Waitsfield were chosen as the winning firm due to their environmentally responsible design approach.”The project comprises many highly creative and carefully developed ideas of students, alumni, staff, faculty, advisers and design team members,” Lawrence Forcier, a professor at the Rubenstein School, said.”It’s been a true community effort, and it will very visibly and dramatically reduce the Aiken Center’s environmental footprint and energy costs, improve teaching conditions and allow the Rubenstein School and UVM to move closer to walking our sustainability hopes and talk,” Forcier said.Improvements to be made on the Aiken Center include environmental initiatives such as Green Roofs, natural lighting, solar panels, composting toilets, waterless facilities, natural ventilation, high-performance conference rooms and classrooms, an energy monitoring system, outdoor amphitheater teaching environment and an overall smaller ecological footprint.”The Aiken Center will beautifully celebrate life within like no other building at UVM,” the building’s website stated.On Oct. 24, UVM’s Board of Trustees collectively approved the project.Funding will come from private sources: an Enivronmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant and $10 million in government bonds. More than $2 million has already been raised by private donations.”The Greening of the Aiken project is an exciting opportunity for the University of Vermont to demonstrate to the state, region and world the possibilities and promise of renovating a 25-year-old building to achieve Gold LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certification,” Mary Watzin, dean of the Rubenstein School, said.According to the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted standard for high-performance, green buildings.”It is easier to build a LEED-Gold building from scratch than it is to renovate one, but green renovation is the challenge of the 21st century,” Watzin said.There are many buildings like Aiken that should be renovated in ways that minimize waste and maximize energy efficiency instead of simply demolishing them, she said.”UVM has much to gain by leading the way in demonstrating how this might be done,” Watzin said. “It will clearly add to its stature as an environmental leader and innovator.”Because the Greening of the Aiken project has been approved, renovation will begin at the end of the spring 2010 semester with planned occupancy beginning in fall 2011.