September 24, 2001

Contact: Sarah Ray
Posted: September 24, 2001

MIDDLEBURY, VT - What should a college do with an old science center building which it doesn’t want any more and which sits on the perfect site for a new college library? Especially Middlebury College, which prides itself on its commitment to the environment? Rather than haul the rubble to the landfill, the College plans to recycle 98 percent of the entire six-story building.

Recycling the facility is consistent with the College’s own waste management standards. Middlebury’s trustees endorsed sustainable design and building principles for the College in 1999. In addition to these guidelines, a construction and demolition waste policy was adopted last year. "Middlebury is the first college or university in the United States to have adopted such environmental rules for new construction and renovations," said Middlebury College Director of Environmental Affairs Nan Jenks-Jay. "The removal of the old science center will truly put these self-imposed regulations to the test."

After the old science center undergoes deconstruction, as the process of demolition is called, construction on the new $40-million library will begin in the spring of 2002 and is scheduled for completion during the summer of 2004.

Some have called the old science center an architectural mistake since it opened in 1968. Located on Storrs Avenue off of College St. (Route 125), it was used through the spring of 1999. The College opened Bicentennial Hall, a new science center on the western edge of campus, in the fall of that year. Since that time, the old science center has stood empty as administrators contemplated how to improve library facilities, and considered how the old science center might fit into these plans.

According to Glenn Andres, Middlebury College professor of history of art and architecture and chair of the library planning committee, at first it was thought that the old science center might make a good temporary library while the current library was renovated and expanded. "Eventually it became clear that neither the old science center or the current library could serve permanent library needs. When it was also evident that the new library should be located on the site of the old science center, we made the bold and unusual decision to recycle nearly an entire building. A new library also will provide the flexibility to create the best possible long-term facility for the information age," said Andres.

"Deconstruction offers another opportunity - to improve an important area of campus where the town and the College’s boundaries connect. Along with the new library, a reconfiguration of a town street will improve traffic flow in the area, and better landscaping will establish a more attractive link between the village and the campus," he added.

The removal of the old science center is taking place in several phases. Dismantling and recycling of the building’s interior began in mid-June this year. The final phase of deconstruction, which includes the exterior walls, starts the week of September 24. Work will take place Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will last up to four weeks until its scheduled completion by the end of October. According to Middlebury College Project Manager Tom McGinn, potentially disruptive deconstruction will be curtailed during services at the nearby Church of the Assumption.

The cost of recycling the building is $800,000 but, according to Jenks-Jay, the investment is roughly comparable to removing the building in a more traditional method and sending the waste to a landfill.

"Throughout this project, the College has remained committed to construction practices that support a sustainable environment. For example, concrete from the building will be crushed at the construction site itself to make use of the material in the new construction project on the same site. This method eliminates the need to truck the waste to another location, therefore avoiding the creation of additional air and noise pollution," said Jenks-Jay.

How is the material - 600 tons of concrete, 150 tons of metal and 75 tons of wood - from the old science center going to be recycled? The majority of the building - approximately 80 percent - consists of concrete. Workers will load the concrete chunks piece by piece into a "crusher" which will be located on-site. The material will be used as project fill for the library and other campus construction sites as well as roads. Portions of the exterior walls made up largely of limestone will be salvaged for reuse. An additional 15 percent of the building consists of recyclable metals such as copper, steel and aluminum. The remaining five percent of debris is glass and wood, which will both be recycled. The wood will be turned into chips and then sent to a wood-burning electricity plant.

Prior to the start of the deconstruction and recycling of the interior of the old science center, the College donated much of the science equipment once housed in the building to various schools in Vermont and New Hampshire. Middlebury also sold three of the old science center’s large air handlers to public schools in Proctor, Vt., for approximately 20 percent of their original 1992 cost.

Constructing a new library also necessitates the removal of four houses along Storrs Avenue between the old science center and South Main Street (Route 30). Rather than tearing these structures down, the College has arranged for their relocation to College-owned sites elsewhere in town. The houses will be moved to two lots on South Street at the intersection of Porter Field Road; to one lot on the corner of Shannon and Weybridge Streets; and to 121 South Main Street, where an existing structure will be removed. The stone from the foundation of this existing structure will be saved and reused to cover the foundation exteriors of the newly relocated houses. The total cost of the relocations will be from $600,000 to $800,000.

Middlebury College will provide updates on the progress of the deconstruction through its Web site at, which includes a current view of the old science center via a live Web camera. Members of the public may also contact the public affairs office at 802-443-5198.


"Green" construction and deconstruction

Environmental features of new library

Maximum efficiency standards and environmentally responsible building practices will be used throughout. According to architect Bob Siegel of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, the building is expected to receive a silver and perhaps even a gold rating with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a new national standard for sustainable design created by the United States Green Building Council. Such environmental features include:

Triple-glazed windows that conserve energy during both heating and cooling

Light-control blinds to minimize light pollution to the outside and to reduce radiational heat transfer

Green certified wood from Vermont—wood that has been harvested and processed through ecologically sensitive means

Interior bike storage areas for library employees who cycle to work

Efficient energy systems use a control structure of sensors that determine the demand for energy in each room, providing heating and cooling as necessary. The systems also include the option of automatic nighttime reductions in heating and cooling, as well as sensors that regulate lighting by noting the amount of daylight in the building and the occupancy level of a room.

Environmental deconstruction of old science center

The College’s old science center is located on the future site of the new library and therefore its deconstruction is an integral and necessary element of the new library project.

98 percent recycling of the old science center building:

  • 600 tons of concrete
  • 150 tons of metal
  • 75 tons of wood

Concrete portions of the building crushed on site eliminates need to truck waste elsewhere

Portions of the exterior walls made up largely of limestone will be salvaged for reuse

Donation of science equipment in building to schools in Vermont and New Hampshire

Sale of three of the old science center’s large air handlers to schools in Vermont

Relocation, not demolition, of four houses near construction site