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New ‘Green’ Building Rise on Campus

December 13, 2004

Howard Hall, the College’s newest academic building, is located directly east of Pamplin Sports Center. It forms the western edge of the academic quad with historic Albany Quadrangle to the east and Watzek Library to the south. In the future, the College plans to remove BoDine, which will create the opportunity to form the welcoming oval green space shown in the foreground. Illustration by Martin Milward.

As first envisioned by campus planners in 1991, John R. Howard Hall would consolidate outmoded classroom and faculty office space, anchor a reconstituted “academic zone,” enhance pedestrian circulation, and serve as the cornerstone for a significant outdoor common space on the Fir Acres campus. Thirteen years later, as its completion nears, the building achieves all of these goals—plus one other that was unforeseen at the time of its conception: becoming the most prominent example of Lewis & Clark College’s commitment to sustainable building.

Turning ‘Green’ Into Gold

The three-story, 50,000-square-foot building adds considerable luster to Lewis & Clark’s standing as a leader in sustainable building practices. In recent years, the College has received accolades for other environmentally friendly buildings, such as Wood Hall at the law school and the apartment-style residence halls on the south side of the Fir Acres campus.

With a long list of green features, Howard Hall has a chance to receive Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program, the second-highest rating in the group’s national standards of sustainable building practices. Lewis & Clark uses LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, as a guide to pursuing the most cost-effective, environmentally friendly building strategies.

A Gold rating is within reach because the building’s design squeezed as much energy efficiency as possible from conventional systems, says Campus Planner Michael Sestric. Howard Hall is expected to consume 40 percent less energy than a typical building of the same size, thanks mainly to raised-floor displacement ventilation and night cooling systems. Its elevator operates with 40 percent less electricity than standard elevators and no hydraulic fluid. contractors are recycling over 90 percent of construction debris and using low-toxicity adhesives extensively. And, an exceptional storm-water filtration, storage, and reuse system won accolades from the Oregon Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

In addition, Howard Hall has a smaller footprint than the buildings it replaced—the Faculty Offices building and the Thaxter, Throckmorton, and Edmonds classroom and office complex—but still weighs in with a net gain of 25 offices and 14 classrooms.

If Howard Hall does earn Gold certification from LEED, it would be the highest mark Lewis & Clark has ever received—one grade higher than the College’s most recent green-building project, the apartment-style residence halls. “On each project, we learn a little more, set the bar a little higher, and do things a little differently to achieve a more sustainable result,” says Sestric.

An Anchor for the Academic Zone

Howard Hall sits in a strategic locale, directly east of Pamplin Sports Center and north of Watzek Library. It is a critical piece of the College’s 30-year campus master plan, adopted in 1991, which Sestric says helped “bring order and logic to different parts of campus” by sketching out functional zones to create a more integrated, Jeffersonian-style undergraduate academic village.

“Howard Hall anchors the academic quad and sets up future redevelopment that will define the undergraduate academic zone,” Sestric explains. The eventual removal of BoDine will give way to a more defined quadrangle and an expansive greenspace, making Howard Hall a welcoming point for visitors, staff, and students.

The College hired Thomas Hacker Architects to create Howard Hall. The firm also designed the recent Albany Quadrangle renovation as well as Fields Center for the Visual Arts, Miller Center for the Humanities, and the Watzek Library renovation.

William Dann of Thomas Hacker says the design of Howard Hall reflects the spirit of its main occupants, the faculty and students of the social sciences. For example, the interior features exposed steel, unpainted concrete blocks, and polished concrete floors to serve as physical metaphors for the ways in which the social sciences expose and express the structure of human interaction, Dann says. There are also lots of conversation spaces that promote a sense of community.

This expressive interior contrasts with the exterior, which Dann describes as “formal” and “dignified.” Also notable is how architects divided Howard Hall into three wings, maintaining an elegant symmetry but breaking up the building’s mass to make it fit more comfortably with its neighbors. For example, the eaves on the south wing are lower than the others to better relate to the height of nearby Watzek Library.

High-Tech Features, Improved Interaction

Inside, the building is flush not only with high-efficiency energy systems but also with innovative classrooms, offices, and gathering spaces.

On the first two floors are 25 state-of-the-art classrooms, designed with the help of students, staff, and faculty from disciplines both inside and outside the social sciences. Each classroom has network access for wireless-equipped laptops; more than half of them are equipped for multimedia presentations; and three have tiered seating and a network plug at every seat. Electrical and communications cabling underneath raised floors enable flexible room configurations. There are also two mobile computer labs (i.e., laptops on carts): one for Macs, the other for PCs.

Upstairs, well-appointed offices will consolidate the faculty from five departments in the Division of Social Sciences in one place. Harry Schleef, associate professor of economics and dean of the social sciences division, says fostering collegiality among faculty from the six departments he oversees has been difficult because their offices have been dispersed throughout the Faculty Offices building, Albany Quadrangle, and BoDine. Now all but one department, psychology, will be housed in Howard Hall.

The third floor also features a range of private and semipublic spaces to facilitate interaction between and among students and faculty. Schleef says the design should foster a greater sense of unity among social science professors. He also thinks faculty will compare notes about the building’s high-tech teaching tools, creating an “infectious” atmosphere for pedagogical improvement.

Faculty began meeting as early as fall 2000 to help design a third-floor layout that balanced departmental autonomy and cross-department collegiality. Faculty members were pleased with their impact on the plan, says Schleef. “Their input certainly didn’t fall on deaf ears,” he says. For example, the sociology/anthropology and communication departments wanted a small student computer lab on their end of the building, while the economics, political science, and international affairs departments preferred a conference room. Architects accommodated both requests.

Community Voices Inform Design

Input from social science faculty was just one of the ways that members of the College community put their stamp on Howard Hall’s design. To ensure broad and balanced representation, four distinct committees (building design, classroom design, program planning, and steering) were convened to provide input that Dann called “critical” to the design process. committee members were tapped from the administration, faculty and staff, and the student body.

Sestric says listening to a variety of opinions benefited the ultimate design. “You’ve got a lot of stakeholders in a college environment. If you give people an opportunity to get their oar in the water, they often raise good questions and issues that can be addressed fairly easily, and the outcome is better for it.”

Dan Sadowsky is a freelance writer in Portland.

The ‘Howard’ Behind Howard Hall

John R. Howard, president emeritus and life trustee, thought he and his wife, Ruth, were simply enjoying a meal out with friends late in 2002. But as the dessert course arrived, former president Michael Mooney rose to announce that the College’s newest building would bear Howard’s name.

“It was truly an emotional moment,” says Howard, recalling that special night.

Since then, he has toured the Howard Hall construction site and marveled at the building’s design, central location, and impressive size. “It should play a significant role in the College’s future,” he says.

As the second president of Lewis & Clark College on Palatine Hill, Howard himself played a key role in charting the College’s future direction. He served from 1960 to 1981, and during his tenure guided the development of the Division of Social Sciences, established the overseas study program, directed the merger of Northwestern School of Law with Lewis & Clark, and implemented numerous capital projects including the construction of many residence halls.

Howard thinks most about the new building in conjunction with those around it. “What’s especially meaningful to me is that Howard Hall is near the library and the chapel, the music and theatre buildings, the science building, and the athletics facilities,” he says. “This blend of subjects is what makes the liberal arts unique in the world of education.” Remarkably, except for Evans Music Center, the other buildings Howard mentions were all built during his presidency.

Howard quips that he was sometimes referred to as “a man with an edifice complex” during his years at Lewis & Clark. Perhaps it’s only fitting, then, that there is finally an edifice on campus that immortalizes his name.

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