Sustainability holds many aspects and various definitions, which—if not clarified—can lead to a dilution of project priorities. At the first meeting, the user group brainstormed the design drivers for the project and developed a diverse set of requirements, including:

  • Recruiting the best students and faculty
  • Timeless
  • Intuitive
  • Multi-functional (efficient use of resources)
  • Subtle, graceful, elegant (nothing is inferior) (equality)
  • Simple and enduring approaches to sustainability – not tech based
  • The building should teach and integrate natural processes
  • Simplicity
  • Most needed—daylight and heat

In order for the Erb Memorial Union to be comprehensively sustainable, the building must:

  • Use resources in the “right” way
  • Be elegantly green
  • Strengthen and inspire the community

The idea of “using resources in the right way” defined the project’s approach to energy and water use. The Design Team embraced a methodology for saving energy that first focused on load reduction through a properly oriented, highly efficient building envelope. The next criteria was to incorporate passive strategies such as daylighting and natural ventilation. Third, the Design Team focused on the use of highly efficient mechanical and lighting systems appropriate to our climate. Finally, the Design Team looked at developing systems for recovering energy from areas where waste heat is produced, such the kitchen and the Craft Center. To ensure that renewables can be added effectively when budget allows, the project includes infrastructure that will permit the building to be ready for later installation of photovoltaics (PV). Examples include making sure the structure can support future inverters, providing conduit from the electrical room to the rooftop where the array is likely to be located, and sizing the electrical service to allow for the future installation of PV.