Duquesne Opens Des Places, New ‘Green’ Residence Hall

This fall marked the opening of Des Places Hall, Duquesne’s newest residence hall, an environmentally friendly residence with the highest standards for comfort and safety.

The 12-story Living Learning Center—named for Spiritan Congregation founder Claude Poullart des Places—houses nearly 400 upperclassmen, graduate and law students who live in one-, two- and three-bedroom suites. The building was designed with a commitment to sustainability by WTW Architects, which incorporated many sustainable technologies, from drought-tolerant landscaping to use of locally manufactured materials. Estimates based upon construction standards indicate that sustainable efforts will save at least 22 percent in energy use.

Some of the environmentally friendly features in Des Places Hall include:

  • Elevators with regenerative drives that generate electricity as they brake going down
  • Carpet tiles, acoustical ceiling tiles and underlay on ceramic tiles made with recycled materials
  • Windows tinted according to expected sunlight (the darkest tint is on the building’s west side and the lightest tint is on the north side of the building)
  • Low-emitting adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, and carpetings, including bio-based vinyl tile in bedrooms.

The suites have generous floor plans, high ceilings and wide private corridors. Beds have trundle storage underneath and can be stacked as bunk beds for added floor space. If four residents wish to live in a six-person suite, they share the cost for six and can convert one bedroom into a living room.

Floors two through 11 have identical floor plans, while the top story includes a University conference room and a student study lounge, both with sweeping views of the campus and city. The conference room includes mechanical roller shades to control the amount of light and solar heat gained.

Each floor features free laundry facilities with high efficiency dryers and high capacity washers, which use half as much water per load as a normal washer. A spacious storage room for students’ bicycles can be accessed through a secure entryway off of Stevenson St.

To reduce the economic and environmental costs of trucking bottled water to campus, each floor has a built-in Brita water station, where an insulated bottle—supplied at no cost to each resident—can be filled with filtered, chilled drinking water. The fountains are designed to indicate the amount of plastic water bottles saved by their use. Each floor also has a centrally located, wall-mounted hatchway for recyclable trash.

According to Mark Minoski, project manager for Des Place construction, Des Places is essentially airtight and benefits from a ventilation system that prevents energy loss by warming or cooling incoming fresh air as needed. In addition, the roof of white rubber sheeting reflects heat, which makes the structure easier to cool, and any electrical power for the building not created in Duquesne’s on-campus Co-Generation plant or through the building’s solar panels will be purchased from wind-power sources.

During the razing of the building that was previously on the site of Des Places Hall, masonry rubble and materials were ground up and a high-powered magnet used to remove metals, which were then recycled. The remaining materials were crushed and used for backfill on the site, recycled into an engineering base used to reconstruct Seitz Street and to build a 300-foot long retaining wall along McCloskey Field. A Memorial Wall, made of limestone and brick from old Des Places building, graces the lobby vestibule.

After construction of the residence hall was completed, McCloskey Field—the adjacent auxiliary track and field, was renovated and new turf was installed.

An educational display in the lobby of Des Places Hall shows the energy usage per floor, and residents compete by floor to see which can use the least energy.

The $38 million structure was designed and built to qualify for Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification of the U.S. Green Building Council, said Minoski.