Berea College ‘Deep Green’ Residence Hall Achieves Living Building Challenge Certification

Berea is the site of the world’s first Living Building-certified student residence hall and the only building

in Kentucky that meets the rigorous Living Building Challenge green standards.

Berea, Ky. —Berea College continues to turn the Bluegrass state “green” and, in the process, is receiving national acclaim. The recently-built “Deep Green” residence hall on Berea’s campus has earned Living Building Challenge Petal Certification, meeting all imperatives in four of the petals the College hoped to achieve. 

In order to meet the Living Building Challenge™ of the International Living Future Institute, which calls for the creation of buildings that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as a flower, projects must meet stringent requirements related to areas called “Petals”—Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Berea College focused on the Site, Health, Materials, and Beauty “Petals.”

Berea’s Deep Green hall is a 42,000 square foot, three-story facility with 66 rooms that house approximately 120 students. Oriented along an east-west axis to maximize sunlight into its interior and allow 114 photovoltaic panels to soak up as much direct sunlight as possible, Deep Green utilizes solar panel arrays, a geothermal heat pump system, enhanced building envelope, Energy Star rated appliances and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

“We built Deep Green as the world’s highest-scoring residence hall because ecological sustainability is more than just a trend for Berea,” says Derrick Singleton, vice president for operations and sustainability. “Sustainability is at the heart of our mission to ‘plain living’ as stated in our Great Commitments. We are committed to living more softly on the land and teaching others to do the same.”

Students were deeply involved in this project by constructing the iconic ceramic sundial in a quilt pattern popular in the region, conducting an archeological dig at the construction site, crafting furniture for rooms and common spaces and creating artwork featured in the building’s common areas.

The construction methods, sustainability features and usage of local and recycled materials in construction of the residence hall fit within the college’s strategic direction to meet the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations and to promote sustainability to the campus, local community and region.

All trim wood in Deep Green and lumber for the 267 pieces of furniture made by Berea’s Student Crafts program was harvested by mule teams in the 8,000-acre Berea College Forest, a Forestry Stewardship Council certified forest. This harvesting method avoided the pollution of heavy machinery, long-distance transportation and assured sustainable forestry operations were in practice.

Berea College’s Deep Green Residence Hall previously earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v2009 Platinum Certification and a score of 90 points, making the facility the highest-scoring, LEED-certified residence hall in the world. The LEED certification denotes independent verification from the U.S. Green Building Council that a building is designed and constructed “using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.”

The building was designed in a unique, collaborative architectural partnership instigated by the College between Hastings & Chivetta (lead designers) and Hellmuth + Bicknese (sustainability consultants), both based in St. Louis, Mo., with broad representation and input from members of the Berea College community. The building construction was managed by the Lexington, Ky., office of Cincinnati-based Messer Construction Co.

From concept to creation, Berea’s Deep Green Residence Hall demonstrates achievement of the most comprehensive performance-based green building standard in the world. The facility has earned Living Building Challenge Petal Recognition by the International Living Future Institute by incorporating energy conserving features, employing environmentally friendly construction methods and materials, and reducing the college’s carbon footprint. Deep Green serves as a model for preserving the integrity of the environment and protecting the health of people and the planet.

“This is an extraordinary achievement,” says Richard Dodd, Berea College capital projects manager, referring to meeting such high standards in both the construction, and livability of this building. “This project’s level of success is undeniably attributable to our campus culture, our supporters and the community surrounding us. “We’re now taking the lessons learned and applying them to our current and future campus projects.”

Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Berea serves as a model for sustainability by committing to construction projects that reduce energy consumption and preserve natural resources while protecting the health of buildings’ occupants. The Deep Green hall is the first new residential facility constructed at Berea College since the Ecovillage a decade ago, is the third campus building to earn LEED certification, and is the first to meet the stringent standards of the Living Building Challenge.

Other “green” buildings of note at Berea College include historic Lincoln Hall, the College’s administration building, which was the first LEED-certified building in Kentucky (Silver, 2004) and Boone Tavern Hotel & Restaurant, the first hotel in Kentucky to earn a LEED Gold certification in 2010.


Berea College Deep Green Highlights

  • • A 50 kilowatt solar panel array installed on the south roof line produces 14% of the building’s annual energy usage.
  • • The buildings closed-loop geothermal system circulates earth-tempered water through 50 wells drilled 375 feet deep into the earth and throughout the building for heating and cooling needs.
  • • Increased insulation, a heat-reflective roof and high-efficiency windows help retain cool air during summer and heat during winter.
  • • Operable windows and ceiling fans in all occupied spaces allows the building to ventilate naturally when conditions are right.
  • • The use of natural day-lighting, Energy Star rated appliances, high-efficiency lighting and energy management controls are used throughout the building to further reduce electrical demand.
  • • Rain gardens with native vegetation and permeable pavements provide storm water protection.
  • • A building dashboard tracks energy consumption and makes occupants and visitors aware of the building’s ecological footprint.
  • • Brick manufactured with 100% recycled materials covers the building’s exterior and helps create a high-efficiency envelope.
  • • These components result in savings of 55% in annual energy costs and earn all 35 Energy and Atmosphere points and 3 regional priority credits.

About the International Living Future Institute:

International Living Future Institute is an environmental NGO committed to catalyzing the transformation toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative. Composed of leading green building experts and thought-leaders, the Institute is premised on the belief that providing a compelling vision for the future is a fundamental requirement for reconciling humanity’s relationship with the natural world. The Institute also runs the Cascadia Green Building Council, Ecotone Press, Declare, JUST and other leading-edge programs. A global network of more than 350 volunteers across nearly 30 countries drive the local adoption of restorative principles in their communities.

About the Living Building Challenge:

The Institute operates the Living Building Challenge, the world’s most rigorous building performance standard.  The Challenge is a philosophy, an advocacy tool, and a certification program.  Launched in 2006, more than 250 projects (totaling over 9 million square feet of space) are currently registered for the Challenge.  The Living Building Challenge fosters buildings that produce more energy than they consume, avoid knows toxins and harmful chemicals, and collect and reuse their own water.

Categories: News, Places
Tags: Deep Green, Residence Hall, sustainability

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 41 states and 76 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.