Surrounded by locally-harvested wood for trim and other finishes, common areas contain end tables and coffee tables crafted by students – including several cut from slabs of the big red oak that once stood on the building site. Likewise, student rooms include 123 pairs of desks and two-drawer chests (made of red and white oak) created by the College Crafts program. Yellow poplar, hickory, maple, even some figure into the building’s interior as well. Highlighting so many tree species shows how the wood is used in construction, how it is shaped and finished, its local source, and the environmental effect of this extraction – all important learning opportunities.
Ensuring healthy, earth-friendly spaces also required great care in our selection of flooring systems and wood products (composite and agrifiber) – again with a focus on high recycled content, regional sources, durability and more. In addition to good ventilation, meeting the project’s indoor air quality goals focused on using low- and no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and coatings, adhesives and sealants, and finishes throughout. This meant relying on non-toxic alternatives to common items such as vinyl base, which contains PVC, and instead using a clear finished wood base that relates to the furniture. Even brass plumbing fixtures contain at least a small amount of lead, another element on the “Materials Red List” (under the Living Building Challenge), calling for additional research to locate cost-effective options.
Our interiors wouldn’t be complete without an emphasis on “Beauty + Spirit”: design features intended solely for human delight and the celebration of culture, spirit and place appropriate to its function. Selective use of local wood species offers rich, warm accents in the lobbies, student lounges, study spaces and rooms. Arts integration provides yet another way to bring color and character throughout the building. Thanks to collaboration with Berea’s Fine Arts programs, painted wall murals will grace stairwells, laundry rooms and basement areas in the residence hall, while art niches feature ceramics, prints, fibers and other student works – creating new themes and space for Appalachian arts and crafts.