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Archives > April 2014 > Sustainability at Furman University: The Repurposed Shi Center

Sustainability at Furman University: The Repurposed Shi Center

At Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, the idea of sustainability works on campus-and off.

By: Walt Steele

The David E. Shi Center for Sustainability, a 3,400-square-foot building on campus, has become a think tank where educators, students and community members can learn more about how to implement sustainability both in their daily lives and into the larger world beyond.

The center operates as the home base for Sustainable Furman, a long-range master plan to help the university, both in its academic offerings and in its physical environment, focus on ways to incorporate sustainability into daily life.

The examples go well beyond pitching office paper into a recycling bin and turning lights off when you leave a classroom. Between 2008 and 2013, Furman University has invested $5 million in campus sustainability improvements. Students are now required to take a course on humans and the natural environment as part of the general education requirement. The school also offers a major in sustainability science, the only such program in the nation at a liberal arts college.

Students and faculty members associated with the Shi Center have worked on introducing nutritious food into parts of the community where supermarkets are scarce; weatherizing homes in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods; and planning a proposed outdoor visitors center that showcases the Upcountry's natural beauty and cultural attractions.

Visitors to the Shi Center also can learn a fair amount about sustainability by looking at where they are. That's because the Shi Center itself is an example of a repurposed building.

Before it was an academic building, the Shi Center was The Cliffs Cottage at Furman, a showcase home built in collaboration with Southern Living magazine. The idea was to build a home that made extensive use of sustainable and energy-efficient materials.

That included bamboo flooring, a geothermal ground source heat pump, a photovoltaic system and Energy Star-rated appliances. After construction was complete, it was certified as LEEDR Gold.

But the commitment to an environmentally responsible design didn't end with the house itself. Outside, it uses xeriscaping and drought-resistant plants to minimize the facility's water consumption, as well as extensive use of StormPaveR clay permeable pavers by Pine Hall Brick Company in the walkways and terraces around the house. "The Pine Hall Brick clay pavers were a perfect addition to this project," said Ed Marshall, who served as project director for the Cliffs Cottage project. "It is really a marriage of design and function. What a beautiful product that meets our criteria for sustainability perfectly."

When installed in a "best practice" permeable pavement installation design, the pavers allow rainwater to infiltrate through the walkway surface to the groundwater below, which acts as a natural filter, instead of flowing across the surface to a storm drain and picking up pollutants along the way.

StormPave has the advantage of resembling other clay pavers in Pine Hall Brick's product line, which have been chosen by landscape designers for years for their permanence and aesthetic appeal. Many of those installations have been done on college campuses-the classic red-brick sidewalk across campus- complete with many of the pavers inscribed with the names of donors to past fundraising campaigns. In the case of Furman, the new pavers visually connect the pedestrian walkways of the house with the existing pedestrian clay paver walks used elsewhere on the university's Georgian campus.

But unlike the pavers on other parts of the Furman campus, these pavers have a larger space between them-a higher void area - which allows water to infiltrate through the pavement surface.

And unlike classic pavers, which are installed atop a bed of crushed stone and sand, these pavers are installed atop a much deeper base of "open graded" aggregates. The installation requires excavation of 18 to 20 inches. Large stones are placed on the ground first, followed by layers of progressively smaller stones. The pavers are placed on a bed of the smallest stones, which are then swept into the joints between the pavers. The series of open aggregates holds the rainwater briefly before allowing it to flow into the ground.

Scott Johnston, principal of Johnston Design Group, the architecture firm that oversaw the design, said that the basic goal was to make everything but the roof pervious to both absorb water and eliminate stormwater runoff.

"We wanted a warmer paving material than we could get out of pervious concrete or gravel," said Johnston. "And this gave us a way to upgrade the finish in the front entry walk and a couple of terraces that are close to the house."

Johnston said that too often, builders think of stormwater as a liability to be avoided, perhaps as a potential flood or a lawsuit from the owner of a piece of property nearby. He pointed out that stormwater management has become part of the designer's mindset at the planning stages of a project, as they incorporate gray water usage and groundwater pollution prevention into early site planning.

"Sustainable design is thinking of rainwater as a resource," said Johnston. "When you start thinking that way, it really affects the selection of a lot of things but particularly paving products." Johnston said that well designed permeable pavement systems provide sufficient surface water infiltration and water storage-and products like the Pine Hall Brick StormPaveR paver provide designers with a method to both capture peak runoff pollutants from groundwater and reduce 'first flush' pollutants such as motor oil and fertilizer from entering lakes, streams and storm drains.

Johnston also said sustainable design will become more and more important in the not-too- distant future.

"We're in a 10-year drought, especially in the South," Johnston said. "Over the years, we have taken rainwater for granted, because we have had ample drinking water. We don't have that anymore and that has really raised the awareness of the need to treat water as a resource."

 

 

About The Author
Walt Steele

is a recognized expert on clay pavers. He is paver business manager for Pine Hall Brick Company, America's largest manufacturer of genuine clay pavers. Steele can be reached at (800) 334-8689, by email at waltsteele@pinehallbrick.com and by fax at (336) 725-3940. For more information, please visit www.PineHallBrick.com

 

 

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