, Gloucester, MA

July 1, 2009

SSC building a 'green' dorm

By Tom Dalton

SALEM — The steel beams rising at Salem State College will become a 525-student residence hall next year, one of the final steps in the transformation of a former Sylvania lighting plant.

But this $57.5 million sophomore dormitory on the central campus will be a little different for Salem State.

For one thing, it will be "greener" than any building on campus, and greener than most buildings at other state colleges in Massachusetts.

It will have one roof that really is green, topped with several inches of soil and a ground cover to absorb rain and save energy, and other roofs with white thermoplastic membranes to reflect the heat. The hallways will have carpets made from recycled fibers, which will complement some of the furniture made from recycled plastic and steel.

"The college is trying to go beyond what the state requires" in energy efficiency and the use of recyclables, said Stan Cahill, Salem State's executive vice president.

The building is expected to receive a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver rating when it's done. If the college is able to add solar panels, the rating could go higher. Solar panels will go up this summer on another dorm on the central campus.

"Our goal is to get a ... gold (rated) building," said Scott Plante, an architect for DiMella Shafer, the Boston firm that designed the building.

The dorm will have touch-screen monitors so students can check to see how much energy they are using collectively.

In a way, officials say, the brick building will teach its own course on living responsibly with the environment.

"One reason higher education institutions have latched onto the concept of sustainability is that this is what we are teaching the next generation of leaders," said Edward Adelman, executive director of the Massachusetts State College Building Authority.

This will be the first residence hall at Salem State with a dining hall inside the building. Students — and the public, if they want — can eat at five stations: deli, pizza and pasta, grill, a salad bar and something called "menutainment," where the food is prepared right in front of the diner.

The 320-seat cafeteria will have glass exterior walls.

There will be a fitness area in the building, a large lobby with pool tables, a convenience store and outdoor lighting pointed down to minimize glare and the impact on neighbors.

The rooms, most of which are doubles, will be organized into "pods," or large areas with 33 students, a concept new to Salem State. Each will have its own living areas, bathrooms and a resident adviser.

Although the college is still working out the details, students may be able to sign up in groups for one of the building's 15 pods. If that happens, friends or students with a common interest, like theater, could live together.

"They are going to be able to create neighborhoods, which is very exciting," said Kathy Neville, the director of residential life.

This new building will complement the 450-student dorm that opened in 2004 along Loring Avenue. Together, they will form the college's first large "quad," a grassy enclosure where students can sit and read or toss a Frisbee.

Students will be able to reach the courtyard by walking through a large passageway under the new residence hall.

College officials are excited about the new "green" building, one of the final pieces of this sprawling campus beside the Forest River estuary that once was an industrial site.

"It's going to really change the nature of the central campus," Neville said. "It's going to be a real community of students with a dining hall and with tables and umbrellas outside in a courtyard. ... It's going to just completely change the whole nature of living there."

Tom Dalton may be contacted at