On April 16, Albion College‘s new science complex received Silver Certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System of the U.S. Green Building Council. The science complex is Michigan’s first large-scale science project to receive a silver or higher LEED rating, and only the third science-related structure at a college or university in Michigan.
In 2006, Albion College completed a $41.6-million renovation and expansion of its science complex. Palenske Hall, Putnam Hall, and the Norris Center were completely renovated, and Kresge Hall, an impressive four-story research building, was added.
The renovation included many “green” features:
- The complex is expected to use 30 percent less energy than a comparable building, lowering energy costs by an estimated $150,000 annually. The reflective roof coating reduces the “heat island effect” around the building.
- The parking lot is equipped with recharging stations for electric cars. Parking preference is given to those who carpool to campus. Bicycle racks and shower areas are available to encourage those who commute by bike.
- Biofiltration swales and an underground storage water system enable the complex to retain 25 percent more storm water easing the burden on the City of Albion’s storm sewer system.
- Volatile organic compound (VOC) sensors monitor air quality and increase outside airflow when satisfactory levels are not met. Low VOC sealants, paint and carpeting were specified for the building interior.
- Electrical consumption is reduced by an automatic lighting control system.
- Trees that were removed from the site during construction were milled and used in the atrium staircase. Recycled products totaled 27 percent of all materials used, and 67 percent of construction debris (more than 1,600 tons) was recycled and diverted from landfills.
In addition to the environmental benefits, the science complex also offers many educational benefits.
The new facilities bring the Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics, and Math/Computer Science departments together in one location, enabling interdisciplinary teaching and research.
A new Marine Biology lab offers students a glimpse into marine wildlife’s behaviors and features five tanks, currently containing sharks ranging up to 4-ft. long.
Adjacent to Kresge Hall, the John S. Ludington Greenhouse features tropical, temperate, and arid regions. Students can study numerous potted plants from around the globe, as well as utilize an in-ground planting area. The Greenhouse also includes a unique feature to aid water conservation. Runoff from rain showers is captured from the roof and used for the greenhouse’s watering system.
Students interested in exploring the stars can study astronomy at the Baird Astronomy Observation Deck. Located at the top of Palenske Hall, the facility includes a 14-foot Celestron telescope and many other instruments for viewing celestial objects.
The latest in technology was also added to the new facilities. The classrooms in the Science Complex all contain electronic projection systems, allowing easy integration of multimedia into teaching. Laboratories are connected to Albion’s Campus-wide computer network, which also connects faculty offices, dormitory rooms, classrooms, public computer areas, printers, and the library automation system.
Albion has ranked as the seventh “most wired small college” in the previous two Yahoo Internet life surveys. The college has a fiber optic connection to Merit Network’s backbone network and offers high-speed Internet access in all of its campus housing. Albion College is also an Internet2 participant, providing students access to the high-speed research network.
The new science complex has brought Albion some much deserved praise and accolades. Yet, Albion College’s quest for excellence isn’t limited to its campus or even the United States.
Select students from the school annually travel abroad to pursue research or other academic opportunities. In 2005, students traveled to England to perform a series of concerts at churches and cathedrals.
For 2006-2007 school year, several Albion faculty, students, and alumni headed south—very far south—to be part of an Antarctic Expedition funded by the National Science Foundation. Participants worked on multiple geology research projects, studying ancient climate archives, submarine volcanoes, and meteorites.
This May, a group students traveled to Poland as part of the “Holocaust Studies Program Service-Learning Project.” Students helped restore a neglected Jewish cemetery in Wroclaw, visited sites related to the Holocaust and Jewish history, and toured Nazi death camps.
Students documented their experiences with Travel Blogs available through the Albion College web site.
In April, The Princeton Review praised Albion as “among the most academically outstanding colleges in the nation.” The college was named as one of the publication’s “Best Value Colleges” in the 2008 edition of “America’s Best Value Colleges.”
Also, U.S. News & World Report cited Albion College as being among the best in the nation. It ranked 91st among Liberal Art Colleges in the magazine’s “America’s Best College 2007” list. Kalamazoo College and Hope College were the only other Michigan colleges to make the best Liberal Art Colleges list.
Computer resources were noted by the magazine as being a factor. Albion College provides students wireless network access in its library and other campus areas. Albion has a high-speed fiber connection from Merit Network and has been a member of the Internet2 consortium since 2002.