The 10 Greenest Dorms in the World

Mother Nature Network

Just about every facet of architecture these days is done with sustainability in mind, from single family homes to corporate office buildings. College architecture has been no exception and many colleges around the world are building some of the greenest and most sustainable buildings out there, creating beautiful, eco-friendly places for students to call home while living on campus. While there are plenty of amazing green buildings on college campuses around the globe, we’ve highlighted some of the standouts here. These dormitories (listed in no particular order) are some of the greenest in the world, and thanks to great design, look pretty great to boot.


    The University of Bradford’s latest dorm, completed in September of 2011, is one of the greenest buildings in the world. Called The Green, for obvious reasons, the $63 million project will house more than 1,000 students in dorms, town homes, and apartments. The building scored an impressive 95.05% on the BREEAM rating scale, the British equivalent of LEED, the highest score ever given. So what makes the building so impressive? It boasts energy usage monitors, solar-powered water heaters, extra insulation for heat retention, rainwater ponds, recycling facilities, sustainably-harvested timber, low-energy fittings, and low-flow plumbing fixtures, among other features. Even better, it’s designed to promote community among the students, offering great outdoor garden spaces around the building.


    It’s hard to get LEED Platinum certification but that’s just what these two new residence halls at Pomona College were able to do, the first in California to get such a distinction. Built to house 150 students, the buildings are beautiful modern structures of glass, wood, and steel, but they have some pretty amazing eco-friendly features under their sleek surfaces. Some of the highlights include solar hot water heaters, solar panels, high efficiency windows, lighting, and HVAC systems, low-flow fixtures, rainwater recycling, an underground parking lot, a green roof, native landscaping, and recycled and local construction materials. The residence halls are just two of several LEED-approved buildings at the school, making Pomona a very sustainable campus.


    In order to get LEED Platinum certification, a building must earn at least 52 points. Ackerman Hall at Western Oregon University went beyond that, getting 53 points in a 2010 assessment of the new residence hall, one of the first in the country to receive Platinum designation. The building, opened in the fall of 2010, houses 330 students and provides both living and academic spaces within. The building is also a model of green and sustainable construction. It has a rainwater harvesting system used for flushing toilets, solar panels on the roof, occupancy sensors throughout, low-flow water fixtures, reclaimed wood from the building site, and even a recycled glass patio that filters water runoff. In its first year of operation, the dorm saved 75% more water and 35% more energy than a non-sustainable building of comparable size.


    Warren Wilson College’s EcoDorm paved the way for many other green dorms worldwide, getting LEED Platinum certification in 2009, making it the first dormitory building to meet that level of sustainability. The amazingly eco-friendly dorm uses 69% less energy than other conventional structures of the same size, making it a sound investment for the school for years to come. The dorm is very small, housing only 36 students, one R.A., and one R.D., but offers a living situation unmatched by any other dorm on campus. Aside from the green features, the building is unique in that caged pets are allowed and there are two full-size kitchens and an outdoor garden where residents can grow food. The building itself is home to solar panels, a large rainwater collection system, high-tech insulating panels, recycled and salvaged materials, and low emissions paints, helping it earn its platinum certification.


    Colorado University is working hard to build a reputation as an environmentally-conscious school, and building a new LEED Platinum goal is helping them to further that mission. Housing 500 students, the Williams Village North residence hall is the largest building in the U.S. to achieve Platinum status. The huge building is estimated to be about 40% more energy and water efficient than conventional buildings of the same size, and is one of 10 other LEED rated structures on campus (eight are Gold-rated and two are Silver). Like other LEED buildings on this list, the dorms at CU have solar panels, power-saving shut-off systems, and native landscaping but boast a few unique features as well, like energy monitors for rooms and water bottle refilling stations.


    Duke University’s Smart Home was another groundbreaking sustainability project. Finished in 2008, this 10-person student residence hall is a model of green living, helping it receive the highest LEED rating of Platinum. The building scored a 59 on the green building assessment, making it not only one of the greenest dorms in the U.S. but one of the greenest buildings, too. What makes it so great? The 6,000-sqaure foot residence was designed by students and their advisers and makes use of solar panels, rainwater collection, green roofs, and sophisticated electronics to use as little energy and water as possible. The building isn’t just for housing students, however. It’s also a working laboratory for students who want to learn more about building sustainably to test out new technologies that can help make the dorm even greener in the future.


    While most of the buildings on this list were built from the ground up, this dorm on the campus of James Madison is a renovation of an old building, the first of its kind to earn LEED Platinum certification. The overhaul of the building is expected to reduce energy consumption by 39% and to save 1.3 million gallons of water annually by using a ground source heating pump and a 10,000 gallon rainwater collection tank, respectively. In addition to these technologies, the dorm was also fitted with sustainable materials, energy conservation systems, and native landscaping.


    This residence hall in the Netherlands doesn’t boast many of the high-tech, eco-friendly systems that other dorms on this list do, but it’s environmentally conscious in its own way. The dorms are made of shipping containers, recycled when they were no longer needed for their original purpose. Keetwonen is the largest container city in the world, housing hundreds of students and is the second most popular dormitory in Amsterdam. The containers make surprisingly good housing, as they are private, well-insulated, and spacious. Even better, they make use of recycled materials and rely on natural light, monitored ventilation systems, and other features which can be a big boon for saving energy and materials.


    Bastyr University’s Student Village is among only a handful of dorms in the U.S. to win LEED Platinum certification. Helping it earn that distinction are high-efficiency water heaters and gas boilers, energy-efficient appliances and light fixtures, low-flow plumbing, natural ventilation systems, radiant-heat flooring, sustainable landscaping and rainwater-capturing roofs. The unique dorms have also won a host of other green awards, including U.S. Green Building Council’s Outstanding Multifamily Project award and King County’s Green Globe Award.


    Oberlin College may not have LEED Platinum dorms, but that doesn’t mean the school doesn’t care about being eco-conscious. Each year, the school hosts an energy competition, challenging each of the dorms to use the least amount of energy per person. Each of the dorms is equipped with a system of lights that lets students know how much energy they are using, with green meaning less than normal, yellow meaning normal, and red meaning higher usage than normal. The school also replaced and recycled 10,000 incandescent light bulbs in 2007, switching to the lower energy and longer-lasting fluorescent bulbs. Dorm dining halls are also super green, using local, sustainable and organic ingredients, many grown right on campus. Other eco-friendly dorm options include car sharing, green move-outs and move-ins, bike rentals, and wastewater recycling.

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