The Stem Building at SCSU  New Haven

By Taylor Nicole Richards

Southern Connecticut State University opened up their new home for the sciences in the fall of 2015. The massive two winged, four-floored academic science and laboratory building houses a center for nanotechnology as well as high performance training labs for computing, astronomy, cancer research, and molecular biology. It’s also home to the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies. Along with being a tremendous resource to all these fields, the building has many sustainable functions.

When it’s raining, one will notice two downspouts in front of the main quad entrance with water flowing onto a boulder. All rainwater is collected in a recycling system from the roofs by gutters and is redirected back into the building and is used to water the surrounding quad.

“The water collected from the gutters spills over boulders taken from Stony Creek Quarry in Branford and is collected by a perimeter drain, then channeled into a 40,000 gallon cistern buried under the quad,” said Reno Migani, senior associate of Centerbrook Architects & Planners, LLP and project manager for the architectural design of the building. “The water is treated with an ultraviolet light filtration system, meaning no chemicals. It’s then used for the site irrigation, reducing the need for potable water used for irrigation by 50 percent.”

The rainwater recycling system is just one of the many sustainable features of the new building. Laboratories and fume hoods are generally the largest consumers of energy in a facility. Often, fume hoods are required to run 24/7. In lab buildings, all of the air used must be outside air, which needs to be dehumidified, heated, and conditioned before entering the building. This requires massive amounts of energy to circulate such a high volume of air. To reduce this energy, several devices were used.

The first is called an Energy Recovery Unit (ERU). This is an air collection box that captures heat from contaminated lab exhaust air before it exits the building and transfers it safely back into the building, reducing energy needed to heat the incoming outside air. The second device is called a Variable Geometry Damper, which reduces the energy required to exhaust the contaminated air out the exhaust flues.

“Every new project I work on I learn so much from my clients,” said Migani. “I had to work closely with the science professors to make sure everything could run smoothly.”

Condensation from the mechanical equipment is captured and reused as makeup water for the building’s cooling towers. Low-consumption toilets and low-flow faucets are also used to save water. All these energy saving strategies exceeds the original goals by 32 percent. Twenty percent of the building’s materials are recycled content, and 20 percent of the materials are regionally sourced, according to Migani.

The sustainability of the science building still doesn’t end there. The roofs and paving materials are a light color to reduce the “urban heat island effect,” which wastes a lot of energy. The surrounding plants outside require low maintenance. There’s also designated parking spots for battery-run cars.

“Nothing inspires and instructs more profoundly than great art and architecture and our new Academic Science and Laboratory Building is, at once, both,” said Steven Breese, Dean of the university’s School of Arts & Sciences. “It is a powerful state-of-the-art teaching and learning environment, as well as a beautifully imagined and designed structural centerpiece.”