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Pomona College Celebrates Opening of Two of the Nation's Greenest Residence Halls

A view of Sontag Hall from a balcony of Pomona Hall

A view of Sontag Hall from a balcony of Pomona Hall

An outdoor space landscaped with succulents

An outdoor space landscaped with succulents

The outdoor classroom on the roof of Pomona Hall

The outdoor classroom on the roof of Pomona Hall

Pomona College will celebrate the opening and naming of its two newest residence halls--Pomona Hall and Sontag Hall--on Saturday, Oct. 1, with a dedication ceremony at 3 p.m. and tours at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum standards, the highest level of sustainable building, the new residence halls are among the greenest in the country. If the U.S. Green Building Council certifies them as platinum, they will be only the second large-scale, new residence hall project to meet those comprehensive standards, following Western Oregon University, and the first platinum-certified residence hall in California.

Students Living Sustainably and Living Well

Located north of Sixth Street, the buildings house approximately 150 students, in suite-style apartments, with three to six single bedrooms, a common room, shared baths and a kitchenette. Each floor also has a full kitchen and family-style lounge to give students a larger community gathering space.

Each of the residence halls consists of two buildings in an L-shape configuration with the second and third floors connected by a glass walkway. Combined, the buildings are 78,000 square feet and sit on a 4.3 acre site. The total project cost was $53 million.

Sontag Hall, adjacent to Athearn Field, was made possible by a lead gift of $7.5 million from Rick Sontag (Harvey Mudd ’64) and Susan Sontag (Pomona ’64). Among its unique amenities is a rooftop garden.

Pomona Hall, which received an anonymous $7.5 million lead gift, has a large fireplace lounge equipped with a projection system and houses the Outdoor Education Center and a rooftop educational classroom focusing on the building’s energy-conserving features.

Among the buildings’ sustainability highlights are:

  • a solar hot water system predicted to provide 80% of the buildings’ needs;
  • rooftop solar voltaic panels providing 80 kw of power (an estimated 14% of the building load);
  • energy-saving including high efficiency window glazing, exterior window shading, operable windows and window fans coupled with mechanical/natural ventilation controls that shut off HVAC when windows are open, high efficiency fluorescent and LED lighting; daylight and occupancy sensors, a high efficiency cooling system, and Energy Star appliances that should decrease energy use almost 50%;
  • low water-use fixtures throughout the project predicted to decrease water use 36.6%;
  • full cut-off lighting fixtures to reduce light pollution;
  • a storm water management plan, including a detention basin to recharge the aquifer, providing 100% decrease in runoff;
  • and 170 underground parking spaces removing the heat island effect associated with above ground parking.

A major goal of the project’s design was to encourage students to learn how to live more sustainably through sustainability tip cards and making sustainable living practices easy through amenities such as recycling rooms on every floor.

The Sontag and Pomona Hall grounds are planted with California native and drought-tolerant species including sycamore and oak trees, ornamental grasses, and a special area designed with succulents. The southern courtyard includes more than 30 citrus and pomegranate trees to promote an understanding of where our food comes from as well as provide an opportunity for enjoying local produce.

Adding to the California-essence of the project are several BBQ areas and, in the south garden, wooden swings under a pergola.

Heidi Leonard ’12, who moved into Sontag Hall in June, has already taken advantage of many of the amenities. She’s used the BBQs with a group of friends to make s’mores, studied in the rooftop garden, and was part of a group holding “Horror Night Movies” using the projection system in Pomona Hall’s Fireplace Lounge. Asked to name what she likes best about being in Sontag Hall though, and she is quick to talk about the advantages of suite design and the “eco-resources.”

For Lauri Valerio ‘12, also a resident of Sontag, her suite made it possible to live with her three best friends. “The suite creates a great sense of community. A lot of time my suite-mates and I  work on homework together,” she says. “In other dorms, the community moves into the hall. But for upper-division students, there’s not as much community in the halls because you might not know the people, Now, instead of gathering in the places like, the Coop where there’s a lot of people, we have our own gathering spot. Every day I’m hanging out there with my suitemates or my friends, and it’s not something I have to schedule. Because we have a central meeting spot, everyone feels equally welcome.”

Summer resident Trevor Flynn ’13 is impressed by how well the buildings’ sustainable features are integrated. “The AC knows when it’s supposed to be on and off. It can tell when a window is open and turns itself off. You can set the temperature within a temperature range, but this is great for a forgetful person. And, instead of being really diligent and unplugging all of my electronics and computer every day, I can just flip a switch next to the light switch which turns off most of the outlets in the room.”

Sustainability Began With Construction

One key to the residence halls’ success with students was early involvement of a residence hall task force comprised of students, faculty and staff. The project was designed by the award-winning firm Ehrlich Architect, and construction started in July 2009 with an 18-month schedule. The lead contractor was Hathaway Dinwidde. The project was managed by the Pomona College Associate Vice President for Facilities and Campus Services Bob Robinson and Project Manager was Andrea Ramella.

The buildings’ green track record began during construction. Sustainable construction highlights included: use of construction materials with more than 20% recycled content and 30% of materials regionally produced; Forest Stewardship Council certified wood for doors, door trim sills and other areas; use of products with low volatile organic compounds whenever possible; and 95% of construction waste being diverted from landfills.

Pomona College adopted its first green building standards in 2002-03. Beginning in 2006, the College has have required that all new construction on Pomona’s campus be built to LEED gold-certified standards. All major renovations must achieve LEED gold-level equivalency.

According to Pomona College President David Oxtoby, “We build sustainably at Pomona College because it's the right thing to do for the community and for the planet with its finite resources. Education of our students about sustainability takes place not only in the classroom but in residence halls and throughout the campus.  It's also important that as a prominent liberal arts college we set an example that will challenge others to follow."

Pomona Hall and Sontag Hall are the fourth and fifth buildings on Pomona’s campus to be built to LEED standards. The Lincoln Building and Edmunds Building, completed in 2006, were certified LEED gold. The Richard C. Seaver Biology Building, completed in 2003, was certified LEED silver. The College’s South Campus Athletic Facility and Parking Structure, completed earlier this year, was built to LEED gold standards.