Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 33
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
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Weather Forecast

Environmentally Enlightened New Dorm Boasts Rainwater Recycling, Green Roofs

Dilshanie Perera

Topped with green, the newly redeveloped Butler College at Princeton University features environmentally friendly design and technologies — including vegetated roof covers, or “green roofs” — and will house 283 students beginning this September.

The complex of buildings that comprise Butler College include 1915 Hall, and Wu Hall, with Bloomberg Hall to be added in the fall, as well as five newly-constructed dormitories.

The 113,000-square-foot new development, designed by Henry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners of New York, boasts a 5,000-gallon underground storm water cistern to collect water that will be used to irrigate the courtyard landscaping, and a sensor system that turns a room’s central air conditioning off once a window is opened.

The roofs on three of the buildings are planted with 14 different varieties of hardy sedum, a plant known for its resilience, and will function as a habitat for wildlife, a means by which to reduce the “urban heat-island effect,” which will assist in regulating the temperature of the buildings in an efficient manner and will serve as a laboratory.

Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Eileen Zerba, who is also the director of the undergraduate laboratories at the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI), said that “what’s wonderful about this design is that we will be able to fully quantify and analyze the benefits of green roofs.”

Outfitted with myriad data-transmitting sensors, the roofs are equipped to compare the energy performance and stormwater runoff between themselves and their conventional cousins. The studies will be conducted over the upcoming years onsite at the Butler College complex.

With work beginning on the project in June 2007, five dorms built in 1964 had to be razed to make space for the new development. Though the demolition produced about 9,000 tons of concrete, metal, wire, and cable, all but 400 tons of it was recycled.

The new building complex is 30 percent more energy efficient than construction codes require, and fits into the University’s Sustainability Plan, which advocates that the campus be the site of new sustainable practices, as well as a laboratory to test new ideas.

Executive Vice President of the University Mark Burstein said that “the residential college system attempts to enhance both the undergraduate living and learning experience at Princeton,” adding that “the new Butler College will play a vital role in enriching the University’s intellectual life.”

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