Green Dorms Report
This year I am doing an internship on Green Dorms. I, while working with Professor Tom Davis and fellow student Joanna Long, am in charge of researching sustainable building at other schools, and designing a plan for Whitman College to build a green dorm at some point. This dorm would include a sustainable design (architecturally), as well as a community concerned with environmental issues and how we can live in a sustainable and holistic fashion. This dorm, which would probably be for first and second year students, would require an admissions process, so that uninterested students would not be placed in the dorm. Possible elements to be included in this dorm include: yoga and meditation, massage workshops, roof-top and/or courtyard garden and community area, as well as other holistic living components. I hope that this dorm can be a place where students feel nurtured. They will be able to share their thoughts on subjects, and present these thoughts to the Whitman community. They will gain knowledge that they will take with them into the real world. They will make a difference. At Edinboro University, in Pennsylvania, they retrofitted their dorms and put in new water efficient fixtures for a one time cost of $11,000 and an annual savings of $52,000. If we were to build the dorm from the beginning using efficient technology, the gains to Whitman would be huge. In my present dorm I watch water and energy be wasted every day, and there is nothing I can do about it. The green dorm would give students the assurance that they can do something about these problems.
At the end of the year we hope to make a presentation at a faculty forum to
gain support for our project.
This experience has been the greatest mixture of emotions. One day I feel like we aren’t getting anywhere, then the next day I will be so excited about the project that I will work for hours. It has been stressful at times, when I know I should be working on it, and other times my work is done out of pure enjoyment. The biggest thrill has been learning all of these new statistics, and hearing people talk about a Green Dorm for Whitman. If Whitman were to get a Green Dorm on campus it should be such a revolutionary thing; it would draw in students, and give us that added edge when competing with other colleges for students; in addition it would be a helpful way to educate students, while also showing that we are actually practicing the green procedures the college supposedly endorses. At the beginning of our internship Jo and I researched different schools to come up with designing plans, but then we talked to Peter Harvey, the treasurer, who explained that Whitman already uses “green” building techniques, and that Whitman is guided by LEEDS standards. After learning this, we shifted our plan and developed curriculum for the dorm, as well as thinking of ways to make the “Green Dorm” an integral and useful part of the Whitman and Walla Walla communities. We sent out questionnaires to students to see if they were interested, and we designed three potential layouts for the dorm.
The experience has so far been rewarding to me. It makes me feel as though I am really doing something good for the world, instead of just telling others about the good things that should be done. The project has also provided me with a lot of information to initiate conversations with, as well as useful statistics about the United States and the way we use our resources. In the US five percent of the GNP is spent on education, while in Saudi Arabia 8% of the GNP is spent, although only 50% of Saudi Arabian children go on to secondary education. There are 400 cars per 1,000 people living in the US, although the average car can hold five people. The average American is over-nourished and consumes 3,500 calories a day…The only other countries to eat this much are: Greenland, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France, Portugal, Qatar, Bahrain and Ireland. More than 1,000,000 m3 of wood is annually produced for each person in the US. The total income of the richest 10% of US citizens is equal to the total income of the poorest 60%. Each American consumes more than 10,000 kWh of electricity per year. This project is giving me new prospective, through the knowledge I am gaining, and making me into a better-rounded person. I know that we can’t please everyone, there will always be those people who think that everything is fine as it currently is; but we are hoping to teach them that the way things are is not the best plan; there are better ways.
Our objectives were to: research existing green dorms on college campuses: research green architecture, design and green companies; define what dorm life encompasses; define what being green involves; research companies who might want to sponsor a green dorm; find ways to sell the idea of a green dorm to the Whitman campus; discuss with Peter Harvey (Whitman’s treasurer) general criteria for a new dorm; designing programming for the green dorm; find out level of student interest in this project; design a few different models of potential green dorms; present Tom Cronin and faculty with designs; and contact companies to see if they are interested in sponsoring the project. We have accomplished all of our goals except for: finalizing a presentation of the three layouts; presenting these options to Tom Cronin and faculty in a persuasive manner; contacting possible donors and applying for appropriate grants; and selling the idea to the board of trustees, alumni, current students, faculty, and staff. We hope to complete these goals next semester as both Jo and I are planning on continuing our internship. Our idea for the green dorm has been to create a place that is ahead of its times. We are looking to build the dorm in a superior fashion, with the least environmental impact. We are seeking to have the dorm be a place that accommodates for all the needs of a student, rather than just being a place to sleep. We have arranged for places to study, relax, play, learn, sleep, dream, eat, live and share.
Plan A (luxury): Seven units each housing fourteen students for a total of ninety-eight residents. Within each of the units there are two quads and one group of six. Each unit has its own large kitchen where all of the dinners are cooked. Two students each evening are in charge of cooking dinner for all fourteen unit mates. At least a couple of units would be designated as vegetarian or vegan. Each section would be responsible for their cleaning, as well as some of the all-dorm duties. There are many rooms which are for the all residents to enjoy. These rooms include: a green library/study room with books on environmental topics, a TV room with a stationary bike to power the TV, a meditation/yoga room where drop-in classes will be taught, a roof garden and a courtyard large enough to be usable. Some other components include: a living machine to clean waste water and recycle it back to the toilets, a wall of rage where residents will post articles and information about environmental degradation, and a wall of hope where you will be able to learn what people are doing as well as what you can do to combat the issues on the wall of rage, and a thrift room where residents will bring donated clothes they pick up from other residence halls and wash. Once or twice a semester the green dorm would have a sale of all this collected clothing with the money donated to a cause to be decided by the residents. In addition to all of these programs, the dorm would also have a very green design and building.
Plan B (average): Fifteen sextets, called “suites”; for a total of ninety students. Suites include a kitchenette, bathroom, living area and three bedrooms. Sections include three suites. Including a “Wall of Hope” (environmental articles and events that are inspiring to students) and a “Wall of Rage” (current environmental problems and concerns) to be posted by residents in foyer, a reflection room for meditation, yoga, massage and relaxation; with drop-in classes in these subjects offered regularly. In addition a thrift/donation room would be near the front doors. Residents will be responsible for collecting, washing and selling clothing that students donate. Profits will go to a non-profit cause democratically decided. As well as a TV room with stationary bike to power the TV, a study room/environmental library and a Living machine to clean waste water. Each resident will be required to put in 2-3 hours of chore time per week to the dorm. There will also be a roof-top garden to grow organic produce. Students will be on a limited food plan with weekly all-dorm potlucks.
Plan C (economy): 15 suites of six students each, for a total of ninety students. Sections would be composed of three suites. Each suite includes three double bedrooms, one bathroom, and a living room/kitchenette. Three suites would be located on the first floor; as well as a large community lounge, where speakers would present and hall activities would occur. A thrift room would also be located on the first floor. At the end of each floor there is a full kitchen for dorm use. There will be six suites on each of the other two floors. On the second floor there will be a study room, and an environmental library, which will be available for use by all of the Whitman community. On the third floor there will be a reflection room with yoga mats, plants and comfy pillows. Students get a set of dishes at the beginning of the year, which they will use for the biweekly potlucks. There will be a rooftop garden for cooling purposes/insulation, as well as to provide organic produce for use in the dorm. Students will perform chores to clean the common spaces, and in each suite responsibility will be taken by the students to clean up after themselves. In the basement there will be a workout area, a TV room and efficient front-loading washers and dryers. Students will be expected to participate in Saturday morning community service projects. The building will follow LEED certifications in the building design.
My main problem has been organizing my time efficiently so that I am not doing all of the research in two or three days a week. Ideally I would like to spend at least an hour daily working on the project. I am also having problems focusing on the particular task of the day instead of being pulled away by every interesting fact that comes my way. When reading the responses to our questionnaires it was hard for me not to take students’ comments to heart; as when a student told me that the dorm would group all of the like-minded students together, which would make it so the rest of the campus wouldn’t come into contact with these people in order to learn from them. Another stumbling block occurred when a student told me that there wasn’t a need for a green dorm on campus because of the Environmental Awareness House. I have spent time coming up with ways to combat these arguments, and think we have addressed these issues. Jo and I have been limiting our task load so that we are better able to accomplish our goals. We talk to Tom Davis often to get back on track. I have spent approximately five hours a week on the internship.
Any student who continues researching this project should definitely make use of the Environmental Studies Room in Maxey; if you spend enough time there you can sort through the junk and find real gems. In addition future students should follow their goals and not get off topic.
Spring Semester Continuation of Project
This whole year I have been involved in an internship on Green Dorms. I, while working with Professor Tom Davis and fellow student Joanna Long, am in charge of researching sustainable building at other schools, and designing a plan for Whitman College to build a green dorm at some point. This dorm will include a sustainable design (architecturally), as well as a community concerned with environmental issues and how we can live in a sustainable and holistic fashion. This dorm, which would probably be for first and second year students, would require an admissions process, so that uninterested students would not be placed in the dorm. Elements to be included in this dorm include: yoga and meditation, massage workshops, roof-top and/or courtyard garden and community area, as well as other holistic living components. This dorm will be a place where students feel nurtured. They will be able to share their thoughts on subjects, and present these thoughts to the Whitman community. They will gain knowledge that they will take with them into the real world. They will make a difference.
After the challenge of the first half of the semester, the rest of the semester went almost as planned, however, it was still difficult for us to dedicate time to the project, and I don’t feel like we accomplished much. When I look at the results of our semester, though, I see that we are ready for next semester, or at least we are close to ready. We managed to write all of a PowerPoint presentation, and we got a couple of community members very interested. I think we will be fine to continue the project next year as an independent study. The work we did this semester is more focused than any of the work we did first semester; we spent weeks on end with just one goal: PowerPoint. Some days I feel like we will never get anywhere and even if we do get anywhere it feels fruitless, because I know we are in a recession, and Whitman doesn’t want to spend any money at this juncture. When I get to feeling like that all I do is envision some of the happy faces I’ve seen whenever I talk about my internship with people. Everyday I work on the project I just have to remember that this project doesn’t have to be hypothetical, it can happen, maybe not when I am still a student here, but someday soon, I can feel the forward motion or project is going to inspire, and I think of this feeling with a smile and say, “Bring it on.”
What We Did
The purpose of the Green Dorms internship was to design, completely a green dorm for use on campus. We had to take into account every facet of living and incorporate it into the design. We also were responsible for selling the project to the Whitman community in a way that we thought would be successful to convince Whitman of the need and value of a dorm of this type. We had hoped to be completely ready with our presentation and to be in the process of selling the project to people, but Jo and I are perfectionists and so we spent many long days working to make our wording perfect, and appealing to the people. We have spent this semester revising our work from the previous semester, making a PowerPoint presentation, researching possible funding, and updating all of our definitions and reasons for the dorm. In addition we have been spreading the word about our project by talking to community members in order to get them excited about our project. We plan to present the PowerPoint presentation at the beginning of next semester to the Environmental Committee, and then to the faculty, staff and students. We will convince them that a green dorm is needed on the Whitman campus, and that we have some feasible design plans. Then we intend to set up informational tables in the RCC and design a petition for the students to sign. The petition will be sent higher up into the school networking in hopes of actual implementation of our plans. We are planning on taking any input we receive from any members of the community and integrating and using their suggestions to the best of our ability. After we receive approval we will contact possible donors and apply for appropriate grants, in order to personally fund our project.
This internship is teaching me so much about myself. I’ve learned that I have the power to make change come about, and the power to influence others. I’ve learned that you can find people who care in the most unlikely of places. Furthermore I am learning some independence, as I have to make my own goals and achieve them. In addition I have been learning how to depend on others, which is sometimes difficult to do. I have to trust that Jo will do what we have agreed to do in a timely manner, and so far this has worked wonderfully. Each time I take time out of my already busy schedule in order to do something without many due dates I realize the important study skills I am learning. I take advantage of every minute, even if it is just to reflect on matters. Whenever I think about this dorm I get more excited about the possibility; the possibility that will one day be a reality.
So far I feel we have been very productive in our ability to find examples of our ideas being put to use. In addition we have made our definitions of “green dorm” and sustainability tighter, and more understandable. It feels as though we are starting to become familiar with the language, so that it has been comfortable to work on the PowerPoint. We have also found many ways to try to convince Whitman that a “green dorm” is right for our college; we’ve included many statistics about other schools, which should convince the community of the need. We have also managed to incorporate many of the elements we had originally thought of as too expensive into the plans. We have found long lists of foundations that might be willing to sponsor the project and we feel we will truly be able to have a green dorm on Whitman.
Some of our main difficulties have been in finding a meeting time, because it seems both Jo and I our overbooked this semester. It has also been hard to find time to meet with Tom, who seems to have too much to do this semester, as we all do. It has been very difficult to think about what I think other people want in the “green dorm” as I have so many personal emotions involved in the project. I do think that we are succeeding in that arena though. This semester I have blocked out a clear two hour chunk of the week, as well as countless other smaller chunks of time in order to feel I am accomplishing something. We are at the point in our internship that every little thing that needs to be done takes a long time to accomplish. It has been difficult at time to stay on top of the game, and Jo and I have both found that we act as cheerleaders whenever we feel the other one is having a hard time accomplishing the goals and moving forward. All in all I believe the semester is going well, although I do go through fits of depression about the whole process. Jo has been my lifesaver, and I am so glad she is there through the whole ordeal, so that I have someone to tell me that things will happen, and everything will work out. I do wish we had been able to stay in contact better with both Amy and Tom, as they can be a good resource.
In the Future
Jo and I plan in staying in touch over the summer. I am planning on visiting both Northland and Oberlin to see their green buildings, and to ask questions to those who know the answers best. We are going to contact each other (via email) whenever anything important comes up, or we need encouragement. Jo is going to continue working on the project in the fall when I am abroad and then I will take over when I come back and she leaves. We plan on making this internship have a concrete ending, and I do mean that in the best possible way.
David Orr-Mastermind of Oberlin’s Adam Joseph Lewis Center