Vassar College, Environmental Studies Program Resource Center

Poughkeepsie, New York

Vassar College’s Environmental Studies Program wanted a sustainable renovation in the historic New England Hall. The goals of the project were to create a space that would have an ongoing positive impact on the environment, provide a healthy work setting, and minimize the use of non-renewable resources. It also was important to respect the character and intent of the ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONCOST PER SQ FT$262.00CITATIONBronze CitationFEATURED IN2004 Educational InteriorsINTERIOR CATEGORYInterior Renovation building. The renovation had to be started and completed during the summer vacation period with a very strict overall project budget.

Special attention was given to the space’s potential to raise awareness of environmental issues. Graphics and text representing these ideas were incorporated throughout the space. The text and formulae, silk-screened onto the glass partitions, were selected and composed by students and faculty of the environmental-studies program. The images, reproductions of photographs of the Hudson River Valley by William Clift, emphasize a regional theme and were applied to the cabinetry with a computerized laser-jet spray of organic dyes. Display cases and a resource island provide space for revolving exhibits, posters, brochures and environmental art.

All materials were selected for maximum renewal and health benefits. Materials or compounds that release toxins over time, as many conventional materials do, were excluded from the project. Chairs were salvaged from other locations on the Vassar campus and reupholstered with sustainable fabrics.

The office space and research facilities have been designed to maximize daylight and fresh air for the entire space, without any alterations to the exterior walls of the early 20th-century building. Artificial lighting is controlled by a sophisticated daylight-harvesting system that adapts the lighting levels in each space to the occupancy and to the amount of natural light. The custom-designed large fabric shade softens the light and acoustics, creating a warm ambience. Full-height partitions with large glass panels separate the offices from the research facilities and the reception area, allowing natural light to enter the interior spaces and visually connect the renovation with the existing building.

"Simple and effective!"--2004 jury