Middlebury

Middlebury College undertakes $4 million renovation and construction of Hillcrest Environmental Center

July 19, 2006

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ? Middlebury College has begun renovation and construction of Hillcrest Hall, a complex of wood-framed buildings located on campus between Hillcrest and Hepburn Roads, and bordered on the north by College Street (Route 125). According to Middlebury College Project Manager Mark Gleason, work on the $4 million facility began in July 2006 and is scheduled for completion in June 2007. Burlington-based architects Smith Alvarez Sienkiewycz (SAS Architects) provided the design.

Plans for the 9,700 square foot project, which will be known as the Hillcrest Environmental Center, call for deconstruction of the south annex, renovation of the original building and western addition, and construction of a smaller two-story addition to the south. Recovered materials will be reused or recycled, including slate from the roof, wood flooring and other unpainted wood, metals and concrete. The building will also incorporate numerous local materials and services, including locally produced windows, furniture and concrete, as well as hardwoods from the college forests and other Vermont Family Forests, a non-profit conservation organization that promotes the conservation of forest community health.

The completed facility will serve as the central location for the Middlebury College Environmental Studies Program and Office of Environmental Affairs, and will include 14 offices, a studio, study, lounge and teaching space, as well as informal meeting areas for students and faculty. The main component of the addition will be a technologically advanced lecture hall that seats up to 100. The hall will provide space for the weekly Howard E. Woodin Environmental Studies Colloquium Series, which is a key component of the environmental studies program.

A landscaped courtyard will be constructed in an area that is currently a parking lot to the southwest of the building. Access to the building will be made from the east and the west through covered porches into an entrance lobby, where a new elevator will be installed.

"Middlebury is committed to the environment from both an academic and institutional perspective," said Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz. "Not only did the college establish the country's first undergraduate environmental studies major in 1965, but in all college operations - from building construction to dining services - the environment has long been and continues to be a priority. Hillcrest Environmental Center is an ideal example of this commitment."

The college is seeking certification for the Hillcrest construction project from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). LEED is a voluntary national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable, "green" buildings. The lead designer for the Hillcrest project, Steve Smith of SAS Architects, also designed the first LEED certified building in Vermont, ECHO at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, and is currently working on several other LEED registered projects in the state. 

According to Nan Jenks-Jay, Middlebury College director of environmental affairs and chair of the Hillcrest Environmental Center project committee, the college has been a leader in applying sustainable design principles to four recent construction projects, including McCardell Bicentennial Hall, Ross-LaForce and Atwater Residence and Dining Halls, and the new library. "This project provides the college with a unique opportunity not only to apply LEED standards on campus but to integrate historic preservation with sustainable design," said Jenks-Jay.

Some key energy systems featured in the finished project will include optimized daylighting and natural ventilation in all new spaces, a heat-wheel heat recovery system for the fresh air ventilation system, and a closed-loop ground source cooling system for the lecture hall. 

The original gabled farmhouse, which is at the northeast corner of the current building complex, was built about 1875. In 1919, the college acquired the house and converted it to a dormitory by constructing a two-story addition to the west and a three-story annex to the south. 

"Careful attention to the historic character of Hillcrest in the project's design ensures that the building will retain its identity as an Italianate farmhouse incorporated into the campus and also allows the center for Middlebury College Environmental Programs to serve as a model for the successful adaptation of Vermont's historic vernacular buildings to contemporary standards of sustainability," said Glenn Andres, a veteran professor in the Middlebury College Department of History of Art and Architecture and member of the Hillcrest Environmental Center planning committee.