Yale looks to build sustainable housing

The Yale Divinity School is going green with plans to replace its old Canner Street dormitories with an energy-efficient regenerative residential housing complex, according to the school.

Plans for the $100 million housing project have entered the fundraising stage, Divinity School Dean Greg Sterling said. If all goes as planned, the buildings will meet the requirements of the Living Building Challenge, a certification program for only the most sustainable buildings.

Residents of the “regenerative village” will be able to live completely off the grid — capturing their own water, generating their own electricity from solar panels and disposing of their own waste.

“We think that this complex of living buildings could challenge the way that all colleges and universities think about residences in the future,” Sterling said.

The new dormitories will consist of 150 individual rooming units and house single students, students with families and younger faculty members. The building would replace three apartment buildings with a total of 80 units.

The buildings were constructed in 1957 with life expectancies of 40 years each. There are more than 200 designated “living buildings” worldwide and an additional 100 under construction. However, the Divinity School’s regenerative village would be the world’s largest living building complex and the first residential one.

Sterling said all of Yale’s buildings abide by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building certification program. LEED buildings are given one of four sustainability ratings: certified, silver, gold or platinum. Most buildings at Yale have gold ratings.

Only Kroon Hall, which houses the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, is rated platinum. However, the new residences would exceed even the platinum efficiency standards set by LEED, making it the most energy-efficient building on Yale’s campus, officials said.

Sterling said the Divinity School has already performed a “feasibility study” for the project, which determined that the potential building site will accommodate all the functions required of a living building complex, including water and snow accumulation, sunlight and a large enough plot of land.

“The timeline will all depend entirely on funding,” Sterling said.

Nonetheless, Sterling added that the school’s time frame for construction is limited, as the old dormitories need to be replaced in the next few years. Director of the Office of Sustainability Ginger Chapman, who is involved with the project, said that although other schools like Williams College and Smith College have extremely sustainable buildings, none are as large as the proposed regenerative village at the Divinity School.

“It would be a remarkable achievement, as it would set the bar for environmental performance in university student housing, and show what is achievable in the realm of the built environment at Yale,” Chapman said.


Topics: Architectural Firms, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Educational Buildings - Colleges and Universities, Multifamily / Multiunit Residential, Sustainable Communities, Urban Planning and Design

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