September 3, 2009


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Green living
New Hampshire Institute of Art’s new green building is almost ready

By Heidi Masek

Some New Hampshire Institute of Art students are starting this semester in some cozy dorm situations. The growing visual art school’s new building at 88 Lowell St. in Manchester is scheduled to open in October and includes dorm space to house 56 students. In the meantime, some single rooms are serving as doubles, and some doubles as quads, in NHIA’s Brady-Sullivan Plaza dorms at 41 Mechanic St. (But those rooms are “quite spacious,” said Roger Williams, NHIA president.)

As of Aug. 26, NHIA planned to provide housing for 239 students, about 40 more than last year, Williams said. There are probably about 430 BFA students enrolled now, mostly full time. About 1,500 students take continuing education or certificate courses.

That’s one of the reasons for 88 Lowell, an $8.8 million project that involved moving a historic building — Manchester’s first high school — and for which NHIA will seek LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification.

“I think according to our best planning efforts and projections, we will have enough housing next year,” Williams said.

The Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences started in 1898. In 1997 it was allowed to award Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees by the New Hampshire Postsecondary Commission. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredited it in 2001. NHIA recently acquired dorm space at Saint Anne’s Rectory for upperclassmen. Neither Saint Anne’s nor 88 Lowell is full this year, which provides space to grow into next year, Williams said.

“We’ve tried to add dorm space as we need it rather than substantially overbuilding,” Williams said.

At 88 Lowell, classrooms and studios are on the lower floors. The six-story new addition has dorms on its top four floors. There’s a great view of Manchester from the upper stories, and a clear view of NHIA’s “campus,” Williams said. Many of NHIA’s buildings are around Victory Park.

“If you’re committed to an urban campus, it’s more difficult to accommodate your growth because you don’t have land to build on. You’ve got to find spaces that can be readapted,” Williams said.

The new building is designed for limited energy and water use, alternative energy production, conservation measures and “green” materials. 

For starters, NHIA expects a LEED point for reusing the original brick building. That conserves energy that would have been used in rebuilding, architect Dennis Mires said. Its interior was gutted, but things like the original central staircase are being recreated.

Runoff from the historic building’s sloped roof waters a vegetated, or planted, roof on the connecter to the new building. That keeps the connector’s roof cool and absorbs rainwater, in concert with a rainwater harvesting system that filters and collects water from the two roofs (the new building’s is a reflective white) in 4,500-gallon storage tanks. Those feed a 400-gallon supply tank in the building designed to hold enough water to “satisfy flushing every toilet at once,” Mires said. That conserves water, as do low-flow fixtures.

Rainwater harvesting reduces the building’s contribution to the storm system, “which in this case is connected with the sewer system in the city so it’s really important that we minimize our stormwater runoff,” Mires said.

External sun shades are set at the ideal angle for this latitude to keep direct solar gain out of the south-facing windows of the new building in the summer. Installed on those are photovoltaic panels capable of producing 14 kilowatts of electricity. Officials expect it will be enough to power the systems required for the building’s geothermal heating and cooling system, Mires said.

This configuration of geothermal will use two wells averaging about 1,500 feet deep, to either extract heat from a loop or give heat back to the loop, depending on the time of year.

Heating and cooling efficiency is maximized with a “seriously upgraded building envelope,” Mires said. It has an overall R-value of 33, and a roof R-value of about 60. Depending on which you use, that’s about 95 or 50 percent better than Manchester code, Mires said.

The building makes use of the north light often preferred by artists, or north-facing windows, for some studios while some classrooms are in the south-facing historic building, and computer rooms are away from windows, Williams and Mires said.

Inside, the building will use Energy Star appliances and materials with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). “You need to do all that to meet the LEED criteria, but it’s also good thing to do,” Mires said.

“It’s an educational institution that is making a commitment to energy conservation,” Mires said.

“Our students tend to be pretty interested in energy conservation and green technology. They’re more aware than you might imagine,” Williams said.

“They’re going to play a real participatory role,” Mires said. Recycling rooms are on each floor, and students will be able to see meters showing the production of photovoltaic panels.

Williams thinks NHIA will continue to use green practices wherever it can.

“We have a lot of visitors to our buildings. And we’re making a special effort to use our educational skills to inform people about green technologies and how they’re used in this building. There will be, I hope, an extensive and clear display,” Williams said.

As for designing for an art school, Mires said that’s why there’s some color on the sunshades. Also, vertical safety glass fins have colored film on the west wall to keep out low afternoon sun.

The “energy-conserving features help articulate the building,” Mires said. People can look up and see the PV — “We’re not hiding them on the roof,” Mires said. Exterior metal panels and blue lights “sort of pick up” a branding image from NHIA’s Amherst Street building.

Meeting LEED standards means that indoor air quality will be “greatly improved,” but the monitoring required also improves the odds of maintaining building performance throughout its lifetime, Mires said. Williams believes many of the features that cost more now will balance out in future savings on utilities.

“It’s what we have to do to begin reducing our carbon footprint. And in terms of the cost, we’re independent of fluctuating price of oil and gas,” Mires said.

“If you think about it, the Institute is over 100 years old ... in the same way we imagine that this building ... will be here another 100 years, serving the Institute,” Williams said.

The historic part of 88 Lowell was built in 1841, Mires said. “We have a part-time faculty member who actually was a student in that building. She’s very pleased to see it restored,” Williams said. It was vacant for about 15 years before NHIA acquired it in 2008. The last city use was for school administration, although in between, an organization had apparently planned to use it as a museum but didn’t raise enough money, Williams and Mires understand.

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