Stanford Housing Goes Green

Students desperately trying to rank premium residences for the housing draw may soon be able to add another row house to the top of their list.

It’s called Lotus 1.0 (pronounced Lotus One) and is the first of its kind at Stanford: an undergraduate residence that also serves as research facility focused on economic sustainability and innovation. Located in one of the lots behind Casa Italiana, Bob, or Xanadu, this new row house will become Stanford’s first sustainable, green dorm.

Spearheaded by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2003, the project had previously been put on hold because of the financial crisis. However, the project is garnering support now, especially as students begin to feel the campus housing crunch. With 21,150 square feet, three stories, 47 undergraduate spaces, and a combination of singles and two room doubles, Lotus 1.0 will be a desirable student residence.

“We are in a unique and prime time for this project to be reconsidered,” says Angelina Cardona ’11, recently elected ASSU Executive. “There is a need for more housing and there is a movement building on campus for this type of hands on experience with our environment,” she said.

Lotus 1.0 will indeed be “hands-on.” The cutting-edge facility will function as a “living lab” that will constantly evolve over time based on student input.

“It is a ‘testbed’ for students to engage, learn, and interact in a tangible way with our living spaces,” says Cardona.

David Geeter ’11, who has been heavily involved in the project since New Student Orientation his freshman year, emphasizes the importance of student involvement with the dorm.

“This is an opportunity for students to pursue an innovative project that will have a direct impact on living at Stanford,” he says. “It’s rare that students get to have direct ownership of something on this campus. We get the idea that Stanford is something else and not us. But we are Stanford.”

But what, exactly, makes this building “green?” Sustainable building features of Lotus 1.0 will include natural ventilation, triple-paned windows, efficient lights, dual-flush toilets, a rainwater collection system, solar hot water panels, photovoltaics, sunshades, radiant slab heating, and a west-facing orientation to take advantage of light and heat from the sun.

The new technologies will not only be environmentally sustainable, but will create a pleasant living atmosphere. The house will have comfortable ventilation, temperature regulation, and natural lighting.  In the words of Sam Ramirez ’10: “It’s a creative connection between Green and awesome.”

While the Lotus Living Laboratory will be a unique addition to the Stanford campus, Green dorm projects exist in other colleges around the country. The DELTA Smart House at Duke University is a 6,000 square foot dorm committed to developing new technologies for efficient homes. Among other projects, Duke students plan to explore a way to harness the energy of dance floors during parties. Other green dorms around the U.S. include the Eco Dorm at the Univeristy of Idaho and The Campus Center for Appropriate Technology at Humboldt State.

At Stanford, Geeter and other project members are optimistic that President Hennessy will approve the project at the end of this academic year. Rodger Whitney, Executive Director of Student Housing, notes that there is enormous support from students, faculty and staff.

“We have recently heard that it’s on the University’s Capital Plan but confirmation of the project should come from Department of Project Management and the School of Engineering,” he says.

Cost, for one, may not be a large concern.  “I foresee this dorm costing less to function both from an energy and food perspective,” says Angelina Cardona. “I imagine the house will obtain as much of its food as possible locally as well as have its own garden for food consumption; the house will also push the limits as to how to most efficiently and effectively use energy within its walls,” she continued.

While timelines are changeable at this point, Geeter predicts the completion of a Green Dorm in as little as 14 months.  “It depends on pressure and investment,” he says. “It’s about how many people we get excited about the idea who are willing to fight for it.”

More information about Stanford’s Green Dorm can be found at greendorm.stanford.edu.

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