The new Blount County campus of Pellissippi State Community College has a traditional “schoolhouse” brick with soft blues and warm toasty colors throughout the new college. But believe the engineers, architects and planners when they tell you: Blount’s new campus is really “green.”
Planners designed the building to be environmentally friendly and built in touches that encourage green practices. There are not only bicycles racks, but a special shower facility for bicycle riders. There is special parking for electric vehicles, complete with charging stations, reserved parking for carpoolers, windows on interior walls to carry natural light further into the building and sensors to dim or brighten lights depending on the ambient light in each classroom.
And that’s just what is visible. Add to that the building materials made of recycled matter and “beefed up” insulation in the attic, and it’s no wonder the facility won a Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award in June, before the campus was even open.
The new campus will celebrate its grand opening during an invitation-only celebration from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 18. That afternoon, the campus will be open to the public for tours.
Dave Walton, director of Facilities, Safety and Security, explained some of the details of what makes this new campus a “green” campus.
Walton said planners wanted to make the campus commuter-friendly. “We have a bicycle storage facility for people to bring their bicycles in and lock them up,” he said. “To encourage the bicycling community, we provide a restroom with a shower facility so that when they arrive, they can take a quick shower and change into their school clothes. It makes it more comfortable for them to ride their bikes to school.”
Walton said there is reserved parking for carpool vehicles and reserved parking for electric vehicles with charging stations.
The Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award was given in June in the Green Schools in Higher Education category. “The Blount County campus design was part of a total initial package we submitted for the award. The other part was a campus-wide recycling program and a third part was the Business and Community Service Department’s class on home energy efficiency and solar energy applications,” Walton said.
The building is not LEED certified, however. Walton said that during the design process, they opted not to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. “LEED certification is a hot topic and something to strive for, but it is fairly expensive to achieve. The Tennessee Board of Regents adopted the sustainable guidelines for construction of new buildings and these paralleled the LEED certification requirements without going through the process of LEED certification,” Walton explained.
Walton said essentially they used pretty much the same guidelines for construction as those required for LEED certification. “The designers tried to incorporate as many of the sustainable guidelines into the design as possible,” he said. “One of the things we really strived to do is to reduce energy consumption through efficient use of lighting.” Natural light from exterior windows is passed further into the building with the use of interior windows in multiple layers.
“In conjunction with that, we have a programmable lighting system with sensors that determine the amount of light needed in a room,” he said.
If it is sunny and there is plenty of natural light coming into a classroom, the sensors detect that and use less electrically-powered light. If later in the day a storm should darken the skies, sensors detect this also and brighten the light.
“The light automatically increases to provide a constant level of light in the classroom using the minimum amount of electricity possible,” Walton said.
Walton said there are a number of other energy efficiency features built into the structure and recycled material was used whenever possible and/or available. “We have extra insulation in the attic space to retain energy,” he said. “People don’t see it, but you have the normal layer of insulation which we doubled and really beefed up. There are things people can’t see, but they are there.”
The commitment to being environmentally responsible led the school to purchase an electric-powered maintenance/security vehicle. “We think that it is going to work out well, and it will help us reinforce the aspect of alternative energy,” he said.
Walton said hopefully the commitment the school has shown to being environmentally responsible will influence the attitudes of the students and staff. “I think the amenities, especially for carpooling and electric vehicles, give people a constant reminder we really need to be doing things to look for alternative forms of energy,” he said. “It is easy to talk about it, but we when we get busy with everyday life, it gets pushed aside. If we make the amenities available, people are more likely to do it and more likely to use those alternative types of commuting, and the whole thing begins to grow.”
The public is invited to tour the new Blount County campus of Pellissippi State Community College anytime between 2 and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 18.
Refreshments will be served in the William “Keith” McCord Lobby.
The campus is located at 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Pkwy. (U.S. 321). Classes begin Aug. 28.