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Green Prairie Community Opens its Doors

Posted by Jenna Ray on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013

On Sunday, August 25, the University of Minnesota, Morris officially opened the doors to its newest residence hall, the Green Prairie Community. This facility is not only the University’s first fully accessible residence hall, but also an innovative living and learning environment that complements its focus on environmental sustainability.

The Green Prairie Community provides housing for 72 undergraduates within an engaged community. The hall is comprised of four wings, two of which will house students interested in pursuing sustainable lifestyles. The Offices of Residential Life and Sustainability are working in with student residents to create programming for these floors, which includes a green education program, community meals with foods from onsite gardens, and more. All wings house community kitchens and common spaces to provide what Roger Purdy, construction administrator with LHB, Inc., calls a “lab for green living.”

Like many Morris students, the 18 upper-class students residing on the building’s “uber-green” floor see sustainability as one of the most pressing concerns for the world today, and they are excited to live with others who share their passion for green living. They plan to develop sustainability principles to guide their floor’s living experience, organize garden parties and meals featuring locally sourced foods, reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint, and serve as green ambassadors who can educate others on strategies for sustainable living.

Built partially into a hill at the northeast area of the campus historic district, the Green Prairie Community features prairie-school architecture, brick and stucco exteriors, hip roofs, and long eaves to reflect the signature style of Morris’s historic buildings. The facility’s location was intended to capitalize on green design possibilities and connection to the prairie ecosystem, and its construction emphasized regional and recycled materials. The building is powered, heated, and cooled with renewable energy from Morris’s onsite wind and biomass community-based energy systems.

The Green Prairie Community was designed to meet Minnesota B3 sustainability guidelines and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards. The hall was constructed with high thermal mass insulated concrete forms (ICF) to prevent winter heat loss and summer heat gain. Its interior finishes support healthy air quality, and its low-flow plumbing fixtures conserve water. Enhanced building systems commissioning ensure measure energy use and optimal systems function.

“The Green Prairie Community serves the growing number of students who wish to live on campus and advances our distinctive campus commitment to building a model community for the future,” says Sandra Olson-Loy, vice chancellor for student affairs. “We are proud to provide a residence hall where our students can bring their vision for a more sustainable community to life everyday.”

The Green Prairie Living and Learning Community was designed by LHB, Inc., a multi-disciplinary engineering, architecture, and planning firm dedicated to being environmentally responsible, reducing long-term operating costs, and improving the quality of life for its clients. McGough Construction served as general contractor. Construction began in December 2012 and was finished in August 2013.

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