Case Study: Plymouth State University

In Blog by Morgan Dix

Langdon Woods Residence Hall – The First LEED Gold Dorm in NH

Summary: To compliment PSU’s state of the art sustainable Langdon Woods residence hall, DCI developed a locally-manufactured green residence hall furniture solution which featured FSC-certified solid hardwood and became the design standard across campus.

Name: Plymouth State University’s Langdon Woods Residence Hall

Location: Plymouth, NH

Size: Approximately 500 sets of furniture

Building Type: Multi-use Residence Hall

Project Team: Plymouth State & DCI

Product List: Beds, Chests, Desks, Wardrobes, Dining tables, & Chairs.

Backstory

Plymouth State College (PSU) is a residential university with approximately 4,200 undergraduates and 2,100 graduate students. Founded in 1871, it’s part of the University System of New Hampshire.

PSU is known for its degrees in interdisciplinary studies, business, visual and performing arts, and psychology.

It’s meteorology department is considered one of the best on the East Coast and because PSU was originally founded as a teachers college, it maintains an outstanding teaching program. PSU also has a distinguished record of community service and engagement.

When it comes to the field of sustainability, Plymouth State has some impressive attributes. Perhaps chief among them is the Langdon Woods residence hall.

Langdon Woods is a model of sustainability, and we were fortunate to partner with PSU in supplying this state of the art facility with the greenest residence hall furniture on the market. According to Wikipedia:

Langdon Woods, PSU’s most recent residence hall, was one of the first collegiate residence halls in the U.S. to gain “Gold” certification by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

In 2003, Plymouth State started work on the Langdon Woods residence hall. The goal was to create a sustainable multi-use residence hall that featured a fitness center, laundry room, multipurpose classroom, café, kitchen, and residence life offices as well as lounge spaces on each floor.

The design of the building was inspired by the landscape—a gorge, wetlands, and various rock formations. And because the campus is narrow, the building mirrored that feature with a slim profile.

According to the website, Interiors & Sources:

To avoid the considerable expense that would result from blasting and reforming the site to make it flat enough for construction, as well as the engineering and construction costs to reroute stormwater, the design team proposed a tall, narrow, undulating building that would follow the site’s contours, capitalize upon the site’s flattest areas, and respectfully preserve the wetlands and other water features.

Sustainable to the core, the result of this vision was a unique and beautiful building that blurs the lines between the residence hall and it’s surrounding environment.

Compared to a traditional building of the same size, Langdon Woods residence hall is 50% more energy efficient and saves PSU $230,000 a year in energy expenses. The green complex also conserves nearly 1.4 million gallons of water each year through a 40 percent water use reduction.

Here are some impressive stats about Langdon Woods:

  • 77% recycled construction waste
  • 69% FSC certified wood
  • 58% more energy efficient
  • 40% of all materials manufactured within 500 miles
  • 36% less water use
  • 20% recycled materials used
  • 50-year stormwater capacity
  • Low-maintenance plantings require no irrigation
  • Surplus heat from the campus cogeneration plant is captured through a jacket water recovery system and contributes hot water and heat to the dormitory, displacing the need for a boiler system.

Process & Approach

 

Langdon Woods Residence HallWhen Plymouth State approached us, they were very clear about their goals with respect to furniture. We had worked with them in the past and now they wanted the most sustainable option available, which is solid wood furniture.

This choice fit squarely with PSU’s aim for the Langdon Woods residence hall to become the first collegiate residence hall in New Hampshire to achieve LEED Gold certification. Currently, residence halls can earn multiple LEED creditswith DCI’s hardwood furniture.

To this day, PSU proudly includes information about their Langdon Woods’ LEED certification on their website.

Langdon Woods is the first Residence Hall in New Hampshire to receive LEED Certification at the Gold Level. LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a voluntary, national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED emphasizes state of the art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.*

Locally Sourced & Climate Friendly Furniture

And there were other reasons why DCI was the natural choice for PSU’s sustainable furniture needs. Plymouth is a “stone’s throw” away from the DCI headquarters in Lisbon, NH (40 Miles).

From a sustainability perspective, this was important.

First, buying locally sourced and manufactured furniture ensured that PSU was supporting local jobs and economies.

But more importantly, PSU cut down significantly on Langdon Wood’s carbon footprint by minimizing shipping and transport distances.

Furthermore, wood is an amazing carbon sink, so hardwood furniture plays an important role in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.

Furnishing residence halls with solid wood furniture is a significant way for Universities to reduce and offset their carbon footprint. Compared to other furniture raw materials, solid hardwood is the most climate friendly.

Design Standards

single room in langdon wood residence hall

In terms of furniture design, PSU spared no expense. We customized our “campus“ style furniture line for them. And now they have made it their standard of design on campus.

The species of wood for the campus line is hard maple, in a light amber finish. The tops of the desk and chest are solid wood and a full 1 inch in thickness. All the edges are rounded adding a “soft” contemporary appearance.

In the end, it’s clear that PSU had an inspired multidimensional vision for Langdon Woods. The project architects at Cannon Design summarized it best on their website when they assessed Langdon Woods as a:

…highly-sustainable project which incorporates energy-efficient building systems, low-emissive insulating glass, sustainable plantings and stormwater management. However, the real story of Langdon Woods extends far beyond the implementation of a host of sustainable strategies. The design process thoroughly engaged the Plymouth State University community and fostered a bedrock commitment among students to campus-wide sustainable practices, laying the groundwork for future sustainable initiatives.

The workshops sparked the enthusiasm of students and faculty so much that green practices were incorporated in to course curricula. An environmental class computed the carbon footprint for the production, processing and transportation of the project’s construction materials, and an environmental psychology class developed an ethical manifesto delineating a sustainable campus philosophy embracing environmental stewardship.

(Photos via Flickr CC: Josh MazgelisJosh FieldsMax LeeCannon Design Architects)

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