“Green” Architecture Students—First in Region—Witness Another First

Published on Fri, September 04, 2009

On September 1, 2009, Northeast Pennsylvania's first Architecture students stood in awe, and then scattered to take hundreds of cell phone photos, mingle with their new classmates, and then listen attentively this afternoon as they witnessed what everyone had been waiting more than a year for-the opening of the first academic year for the new Center for Architectural Studies, the spacious learning lab of "green" architecture that will be the academic home for the next four to six years for these future environmental stewards.

It was the first day of class for the new Marywood University School of Architecture, and there was no shortage of celebration or excitement.

"Today, you are realizing your dreams," Marywood University President Sister Anne Munley, IHM, Ph.D., told the eager crowd of 50 Architecture majors as they sat together on a rising stairway of bleachers that had been built with wood recycled from a former dance floor in the building. "You are beginning a journey that will fill your lives with meaning and purpose as you become environmental stewards of our region, our nation, and our world."

It was nearly a year ago, on October 22, 2008, that Sister Anne first announced that the University, in fall 2009, would open Northeast Pennsylvania's first School of Architecture, with a special emphasis on "green" architecture and environmental stewardship. The new school is one of just a handful of architecture programs designed to graduate students with LEED certification.

"This facility is a living testament to sustainability," Founding Dean Gregory K. Hunt, FAIA, said to the students in their first official lecture in the new Center for Architectural Studies. "You know, of course, that you're in a renovated gym, even though the building looks nothing like a gym now! Eighty-three percent of the materials used in this construction was recycled."

In this newly renovated, multi-tiered facility, each student will have his or her own desk and workspace--individually hand-crafted by contracted laborers and Marywood University maintenance staff.  On the mezzanine, there is additional studio space, a multi-purpose gallery, and offices for faculty, the dean, and staff. An open room on the second floor will serve as a lecture and multi-media presentation area. The Center's main entrance opens on to a wide gallery space that will serve as both Architecture student exhibit area and University passageway to the north side of campus. "We're trying to emphasize open flowing spaces, and to invite the entire community in to witness our students' work," Dean Hunt explained.

"We will harvest light in this facility," said the Dean, as he showed students the ten-foot high clerestory-a north-facing skylight that was built above the original roof. Abundant natural light from the clerestory will inspire students' in their work and simultaneously reduce electricity costs for artificial lighting. Above the students' desks, a passive "chilled beam" air-conditioning system will provide cool air to the work spaces with minimal electricity use. "It's a natural convection cycle," Dean Hunt said. "And it's just one of the many 'green' features in the facility that students will study in this environmental learning lab." Others include exposed pipes, beams, and wiring that provide visual, tangible evidence of how the building was constructed. "You can touch the insides of this building," Dean Hunt said.

Students were also drawn to the Center's "green roof," a huge expanse of three-inch high succulent plants in dozens of rows of gravel pans on the north side of the building. The green roof provides insulation to the facility, helping to retain heat in winter and cool air in warm months. Rainwater captured beneath the plants will be used in the Center's gray-water plumbing for bathroom facilities.

Regional media reporters were on hand to record the event, as students listened to Sister Anne Munley welcome the inaugural class and to Dean Hunt as he introduced the School of Architecture's faculty and then invited the students to roam the building.

"It's so exciting. Everything is so new," freshman Architecture student Danielle Congdon told WNEP-TV reporter, Julie Sidoni. "It's a little overwhelming, but exciting at the same time," she said.

"I've been waiting to get in this building since orientation," freshman Jillian Soprano told Wilkes-Barre Times Leader reporter, Andrew Seder. "It is mind-blowing and amazing. It just feels like you can do anything in here. It's inspiring."

See additional photos http://www.marywood.edu/architecture/gallery/ from the first day of class.

To see media coverage of the first day of class in the new Marywood University School of Architecture's Center for Architectural studies, go to:

Wilkes-Barre Times Leader report, and additional Times Leader web video story:


WBRE-TV video report:


WNEP-TV video report: