College Puts Waste Reduction Policy to Test

College Puts Waste Reduction Policy to Test

What should a college do with a science center that's outlived its usefulness, and sits on the perfect site for a new college library? Especially Middlebury College, which prides itself on its commitment to the environment? Rather than haul the rubble to the landfill, the College plans to recycle 98% of the six-story building.

Recycling the facility is consistent with the College's waste management standards. Middlebury's trustees endorsed sustainable design and building principles for the College in 1999 and adopted a construction and demolition waste policy in 2000.

According to Nan Jenks-Jay, Middlebury College Director of Environmental Affairs, Middlebury is the first college or university in the United States to have adopted such environmental rules for new construction and renovations.

“The removal of the old science center will truly put these self-imposed regulations to the test," Jenks-Jay said.

After the old science center undergoes demolition, construction on the $40 million library will begin in spring 2002; it will open for business in summer 2004.

The old science center opened in 1968 and was used through the spring of 1999. The College opened Bicentennial Hall, a science center on the western edge of campus, that fall. Since then, the old science center has stood empty. Its design and appearance never had overwhelming support.

According to Glenn Andres, Middlebury College professor of history of art and architecture and chair of the library planning committee, at first it was thought that the old science center might make a good temporary library while the current library was renovated and expanded.

"Eventually it became clear that neither the old science center or the current library could serve permanent library needs. When it was also evident that the new library should be located on the site of the old science center, we made the bold and unusual decision to recycle nearly an entire building," Andres said.

"Deconstruction offers another opportunity -- to improve an important area of campus where the town and the College's boundaries connect. Along with the new library, a reconfiguration of a town street will improve traffic flow in the area, and better landscaping will establish a more attractive link between the village and the campus," Andres said.

Recycling the building will cost the College $800,000. According to Jenks-Jay, the investment is comparable to demolishing and landfilling the building, but with obvious environmental benefits.

"Throughout this project, the College has remained committed to construction practices that support a sustainable environment. For example, concrete from the building will be crushed at the construction site itself to make use of the material in the new construction project on the same site. This method eliminates the need to truck the waste to another location, therefore avoiding the creation of additional air and noise pollution," said Jenks-Jay.

The old science center is composed of 600 tons of concrete, 150 tons of metal, and 75 tons of wood. The concrete will be crushed and used as project fill for the library and other campus construction sites and roads. Portions of the exterior walls, composed largely of limestone, will be salvaged for reuse. An additional 15% of the building consists of recyclable metals such as copper, steel and aluminum. The remaining five percent of debris is glass and wood, which will be recycled. The wood will be turned into chips and then sent to a wood-burning electricity plant.

Prior to the start of the deconstruction and recycling of the interior of the old science center, the College donated much of the science equipment once housed in the building to various schools in Vermont and New Hampshire. Middlebury also sold three of the old science center's large air handlers to public schools in Proctor, Vt., for approximately 20% of their original 1992 cost.

Middlebury College will provide updates on the progress of the deconstruction through its Web site, which includes a real-time view of the old science center via a live Web cam.

‘Green’ Construction and Deconstruction

According to architect Bob Siegel of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, the new library is expected to receive a silver or gold rating with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a national standard for sustainable design created by the United States Green Building Council.

Such environmental features include:
  • Triple-glazed windows that conserve energy during both heating and cooling;
  • Light-control blinds to minimize light pollution to the outside and to reduce radiational heat transfer;
  • Green certified wood from Vermont-wood that has been harvested and processed ecologically;
  • Interior bike storage areas for library employees who cycle to work;
  • Efficient energy systems use a control structure of sensors that determine the demand for energy in each room, providing heating and cooling as necessary.