After being covered in a layer of black grime, the 30,000 square–foot newly renovated Allbritton Center is revealing its red brick exterior and stained glass windows. Its heavy, wood doors have been refabricated and are equipped with new hinges, new hardware, and glass panels. The building houses the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the Shapiro Creative Writing Center, and more. [See next page.]
A tour of the inside reveals an inviting student lounge with deep brown comfy chairs and couches, coffee tables, and a small kitchen. There are also offices concealed by translucent glass panels, some of which emit a warm, orange glow. Salvaged, lightly colored wooden stairs help to create a spacious, airy environment. Classrooms are built with recycled wood base and quartzite window sills. The earth–toned carpeting is all recycled.
More than 80 percent of the demolition and construction debris from the original structure has been recycled. The renovated building also meets the rigorous standards of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), whose nationally accepted LEED certification program requires certain buildings to meet high performance green building standards.
According to the USGBC, LEED–certified buildings are designed in part to be healthier and safer for occupants, lower operating costs and increase asset value, reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve energy and water, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
LEED has standard, silver, gold, and platinum ratings. Connecticut law requires new private buildings valued at $5 million or more to meet or exceed LEED Silver. Wesleyan’s application cites the building as meeting LEED Gold, says Alan Rubacha, project manager for the renovation.
“Our mechanical system is the real story of the building,” he says. “That ranks very highly from an energy use perspective compared to other buildings.”
The mechanical system uses chilled beams in concert with a dedicated outside air system to deliver heating and cooling to the spaces. The beams work like a radiator in the ceiling by using cold or hot water to deliver preheated or cooled air. That air is supplied by the dedicated outside air unit which uses 100 percent outside air passed over a heat recovery wheel.
“You save money in fan horsepower by just providing ventilation air,” says Rubacha. “You need a lot less infrastructure to keep cool with water.”
Additionally, the floor plan in the Allbritton Center is arranged to take advantage of more natural light in the offices. Spacious conference rooms with oversized conference tables are lit by lights controlled by photocells that can adjust the amount of electrical energy they use by detecting the amount of sunlight in the room.
As part of the renovation, Wesleyan also replaced the slate roof with new slate from a similar quarry, reduced the grade to less than five percent from the south side on Church Street to the north side by getting rid of the 13 steps, replaced at least 15 windows, and installed new copper gutter and drainage systems. The building’s exterior is accentuated by a landscape of native plants and newly paved white sidewalks.
Everything from its freshly scrubbed exterior to new uses for recycled materials is breathing new life into a building that’s had many uses. Over the long term, the building will also see lower bills. Rubacha estimates the renovation will save the university 30 percent in energy costs.