Facilities by Newman Architects Support UConn’s Carbon Neutral, Inclusive Goals

UConn Peter J. Werth Living and Learning Tower

Storrs, CT – In a letter from President Radenka Maric in late 2022, the University of Connecticut announced it was accelerating its goal of carbon neutrality from 2040 to 2030. Newman Architects’ current and recent work on the campus, including two new residence halls totaling more than 1400 beds, is helping move the needle toward this goal with facilities that support equitable environmental sustainability.

“Our strategy is to address the existential threat posed by climate change through a comprehensive and holistic approach, through educating our students, through community engagement, and through research and working with our partners in industry, the federal government and state,” Maric said.

Environmental justice is a critical component of UConn’s efforts, and the university says it acknowledges that the engagement and inclusion of historically underrepresented and exploited groups is necessary for achieving equitable sustainability.

At SCUP’s North Atlantic Conference, José Hernandez, AIA, NOMA, LEED GA, principal at Newman Architects, and Melissa Foreman, director of learning communities at UConn, plan to share the results of the university’s investment in the LEED Gold certified Peter J. Werth Living and Learning Tower, an 8-story residence hall that seeks to foster healthy, inclusive, community-based living with as little negative impact on the environment as possible. A review of how the Werth Tower and its eight living/learning houses have served students since opening in 2016 will seek to support decision-making at other institutions investing in new housing models and buildings with diversity and inclusion as a key concern.

Foreman will report the Learning Communities’ impacts on student academic success and social engagement, including recent data on students’ sense of “belongingness” since the opening of the Werth Tower. She will discuss how the program has evolved, including with the unexpected challenges of supporting students on campus and at home through the pandemic, continuing enrollment growth, and growing demand to join the Learning Communities. She will also share data on how the building is measuring up to campus sustainability goals.

Peter J. Werth employs a number of energy-saving strategies, including a connection to the campus cogeneration plant, a high-performance building envelope, gray-water-supplied centrifugal chillers with indoor cooling-tower sumps, Energy Star appliances, contact sensors to disable cooling when windows are open, dashboard displays for resident and university monitoring, and rooftop solar thermal and photovoltaic collectors. The tower’s solar array alone has avoided more than 241,000 pounds of CO2 since 2017.

Since 2000, UConn has increased its on-campus square footage by 44%, which includes nearly half a million residential, athletic, and academic square feet designed by Newman. Over that same period, UConn Storrs has also reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 25%.

Newman’s work on campus continues with the new South Campus Residence Hall, which will include 657 beds and a 500-seat new dining hall.  In addition to numerous sustainability and carbon reduction strategies aimed at energy conservation, stormwater control and reuse, and a photovoltaic array, the team is exploring the potential for geothermal heat pumps on site. The design-build project is anticipating completion in time for the fall 2024 semester.