University President Steven Knapp and members of the GW community celebrated the opening of South Hall, the school’s first LEED-certified construction project on Thursday morning.
The newest residence hall, which houses seniors in suites made up of four or five bedrooms, two bathrooms and a communal kitchen and living area, is the first GW building to be approved by the United States Green Building Council in Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design.
Some eco-friendly amenities include low volatile organic compound paints, bamboo paneling, recycling areas on every floor, low-flow plumbing fixtures and water filters for every room.
A ceremonial planting of echinaceas, which are intended to grow up the back wall of the South Hall courtyard, followed the ceremony.
Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak said South Hall is only one part of GW’s goal for a larger community of on-campus residents.
“In 1990, there were less than 3,000 beds on campus,” Chernak said. Since then, Chernak said, the number of beds has increased to around 7,500.
“The seniors will probably think back to those days in Thurston, then contrast that to the opportunities in South Hall,” Chernak said.
Since assuming the presidency two years ago, Knapp has made campus sustainability a priority. At Thursday’s opening, he noted there is a larger struggle in updating older campus buildings – such as the F Street House where Knapp and his wife reside – to newer environmental standards.
“The F Street House has been there since 1849. It’s an architectural part of history,” Knapp said. “There is always a challenge for urban sustainability while preserving historical character.”
Knapp said South Hall offers a two-fold benefit. It provides more on-campus residences for upperclassmen and builds a sense of community, he said, but added that the residence hall is important in “reducing the burden of surrounding neighborhoods” with students seeking off-campus living.
Knapp attributed much of South Hall’s success to Campaign GW, GW’s student-led group focused on the extended campus plan of the University.
Sophomore Dylan Pyne, co-coordinator of Campaign GW, said the group reached out to students, parents and staff to contribute ideas concerning the building.
“If you help shape what the campus looks like, it gives you a sense of ownership,” Pyne said.
Although GW representatives boast South Hall’s green initiatives, many residents find more solace in the privacy and free laundry provided in their new rooms.
“It’s nice to have your own place to go and close the door within the suite,” senior Alexandra Matteson said. “I can’t really complain about anything.”
“It’s the best dorm I’m ever lived in at GW,” senior Roy Tian Qin said.
Despite being his favorite residence hall, Qin did say water issues have plagued his room so far.
“The water is lukewarm, though. It never gets hot enough.”
The next residence hall to be built to LEED standards will be Mount Vernon’s Pelham hall, which the University plans to open next fall.