Commonwealth Honors College Residential Complex

Project Overview

LEED Certification: LEED Silver
Completed: August 2013
Architect/Engineer: William Rawn
Project Manager: Andy Soles

Project Purpose

This $177 million residential and teaching complex in the heart of the UMA campus was built to provide a living and working environment exclusively to serve the Commonwealth Honors College. The facility is one of the best public university complexes of its kind in the nation, and includes 1,500 beds and nine classrooms and faculty residences, along with space for gathering, advising and program administration.

The living and learning facility is situated the east side of Commonwealth Avenue between the Recreation Center and the Boyden Gymnasium. The buildings that make up the complex range in height from four to six stories, and are arranged around a series of courtyards.

Commonwealth Honors College currently serves about 3,000 students in 88 majors. It provides an intellectually challenging honors curriculum, fosters a community of scholars and helps prepare future leaders by providing an academic avenue for highly motivated students to delve deeply into their studies. It is also the only honors college in the region to provide a four-year honors course of study that includes a highly demanding six-credit capstone project. The college plans to gradually increase its incoming classes from 485 this fall to 600 per year.

Before the project was completed, Priscilla M. Clarkson, dean of Commonwealth Honors College, expressed her enthusiasm that the new complex would help to improve an already excellent program: "Commonwealth Honors College is the premier honors college in New England, serving the greatest number of students in the largest number of majors," Clarkson said. "[It] will serve as a visible representation of the commitment of this campus to academic excellence and will help attract even more students to the program."

Sustainability Features

Site Selection: The previously developed site located on the UMA main campus at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Hicks Way is within the community connectivity compliance area, as established by the University’s Green Building Committee. Compliance requires a residential area and 10 basic services, as defined by LEED, to be within 0.5 miles of the project building(s). As part of the core campus, the CHC site is in close proximity (.25 miles or less) to multiple campus shuttle bus stops and is easily reached by bicycle.

Alternative Transportation: At minimum, 15% of dormitory residents have access to secure indoor bicycle storage. Additionally, outdoor bike racks provide convenience to students, faculty and staff utilizing the Commonwealth College facilities.

Community Engagement: The congregation of interconnected buildings that makes up the College creates a series of landscaped courtyards which provide outdoor gathering spaces to foster community interaction. They are vegetated with sustainable plantings that do not require irrigation.

Water Management: The project decreased pervious ground cover, reducing storm water runoff levels by 25%. Low flow, high efficiency plumbing fixtures are installed throughout the buildings to reduce potable water use. The design team specified 1.28 gpf toilets, 0.5 gpm or 0.125 gpm urinals, 0.5 gpm lavatory faucets and 1.5 gpm showers.

Indoor Environmental Air Quality: An Indoor Air Quality Plan was prepared and established during early phases of the building process by the contractor. Natural ventilation is employed in conjunction with mechanical systems, with the majority of the dorm rooms, multi-purpose rooms, student lounges, classrooms and offices sporting operable windows. The plan also included other efforts to ensure excellent air quality such as the implementation of either a “building flush-out” or air quality testing prior to occupancy. In addition, all adhesives and sealants, paint coatings, carpeting materials and hard-surface manufactured floorings were required to meet low-VOC criteria. To minimize indoor pollutants, chemical use areas, such as janitors closets, are ventilated separately from adjacent spaces and mats are installed at all regularly used building entrances.

Energy Measurement: Extensive metering was implemented for this project to ensure a constant understanding of its energy and water consumption. The measurement process will help to verify, but also to set a precedent for expected energy use in this type of building development.

Waste Management: 75% of construction and demolition was recycled or repurposed for the duration of the project.

Lighting Systems: The lighting controls for the Commonwealth College include daylight dimming and vacancy sensors. The student housing buildings have separate thermostat zones in each dorm room, student lounge and office (minimum requirement).

Commonwealth Honors College Residential Complex under construction
Commonwealth Honors College Residential Complex Exterior Front
Commonwealth Honors College Residential Complex Map