New Columbia, S.C., University Dormitory Features 'Green' Design

West Quad's three cream-colored buildings feature long hallways and little bedroom suites just like any other dorm.

Nov. 6—West Quad's three cream-colored buildings feature long hallways and little bedroom suites just like any other dorm.

But check out the details of this new complex, at the corner of Sumter and Wheat streets, and you'll find the largest environmentally friendly residence hall complex in the world.

USC anticipates 45 percent energy savings and 20 percent water savings compared with residence halls of similar size.

Students, including Mallory Giaccone, 20, wake up to natural sunlight. Their rooms' south-facing windows have a "light shelf" that maximizes daytime sunlight by reflecting it onto the ceilings of the dorm's rooms and blocks unwanted heat.

In the bathrooms, a low-flow system infuses air into the faucets' water stream, conserving water while maintaining good pressure. And if students forget to turn off the bathroom light on their way out, a sensor does it for them.

A solar panel on the roof heats the water supply for the dorm's 500 undergraduate students.

And the furniture and carpet may look typical, but they're made of recycled materials.

"This isn't being lectured to or showing a PowerPoint (on being environmentally sensitive)," said Bruce Coull, dean of USC's School of the Environment. "This is living it."

While the dorm was only recently completed, there's no new-paint smell. Low volatile, organic compounds in the paint are better for the environment.

"I've always been very environmentally friendly," Giacoone said. "And that's what attracted me to this dorm."

West Quad also features a Learning Center with conference and classroom space. Its turf roof cools the building by absorbing heat, while its electricity and hot water are generated in part by a hydrogen fuel cell.

Still, not every student is impressed with the green details.

"I wanted to live in a new dorm, and I liked that this one was by California Dreaming," said Brandon Bradley, a junior, referring to the restaurant off Assembly Street.

At $30.9 million, West Quad was built for the same cost as traditional dorms, which, university officials say, debunks the myth that building green costs more.

They're also planning to build more green dorms and buildings, including the new Arnold School of Public Health building on Assembly Street.

Rain caused construction delays on the two-year West Quad project.

"It's been really frustrating because I've been paying all this extra money and not getting services that other students are getting," said West Quad resident Amanda Pike, who had no door bell or working laundry room at the beginning of the school year.

It costs between $50 and $75 more per semester to live in West Quad than in East Quad, USC's second newest dorm.

That's because of escalating construction costs, not because it's green, said a university official.

Staff writer Jessica Lowry contributed to this report.

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