Project Completion Year
Project Location: City
Project Location: State
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United States of America
Oberlin College is a national leader in the arts with a reputation for pioneering work in environmental sustainability. The design firm worked with the College to realize its vision for the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center, a highly sustainable, mixed-use building that serves as the front door to both the City of Oberlin and the Oberlin College campus. David Orr, an Oberlin faculty member and nationally-recognized thought-leader in environmental studies, conceived the Gateway Center as an opportunity for the campus and community to come together and contribute to a larger conversation on climate change and responsible design practice.
The 104,000-square-foot, mixed-use Gateway Center is a model for high-performance buildings and whole systems thinking, utilizing a groundbreaking mix of first-of-its-kind sustainable technologies and innovative visitor engagement strategies. Inclusive of guest rooms, event and conference spaces, a welcome center, a farm-to-table restaurant, the College’s admissions office, and classroom space, the project reimagines the campus hotel typology to create a focal point that unites the City and the College.
Sustainable Design Intent and Innovation
The Gateway Center is the cornerstone project of the new Green Arts District, a 13-acre block that will bring the arts and sciences together to create a transformative sustainable community. The Gateway Center’s Hotel at Oberlin is the fifth new hotel in the U.S. to achieve LEED Platinum. The Hotel at Oberlin is also the first hotel in the U.S. to utilize radiant heating and cooling, supported by a geothermal well field that also derives additional power from the College’s existing photovoltaic array. As measured by Energy Use Intensity, the building is within the top ranking of commercial structures in North America, using 55% less energy than comparable buildings. Other innovative sustainable features include rainwater collection and reuse, exterior automated solar shading devices that respond to weather and sun exposure, a highly effective thermal envelope that uses rain screen technology for long-term moisture control, and natural ventilation through automated window vents. Together, all these systems serve to round out the building’s creative approach to green practices in building design, construction, and use.
Rather than use a traditional air conditioning system that circulates hot or cold air to change the ambient air temperature, the hotel utilizes a radiant heating and cooling system. It is the first hotel in the country to utilize this passive system which relies on surface temperatures within the building to heat and cool interior spaces. Each guest room contains a radiant ceiling panel and a ceiling fan, which helps increase the cooling performance of the system by moving air across the panel. The public areas of the building, including the lobby, restaurant, and event spaces, are naturally ventilated through a large two-story atrium. An automated system opens windows on the ground level to intake fresh air, while windows at the top of the atrium are opened to release warm air, creating a natural stack effect.
The Hotel at Oberlin takes a proactive approach to educating guests on how they can impact building performance and participate in conservation measures. Guest rooms are fitted with indicator lights that show when outdoor conditions are suitable for opening the windows. When the windows are open, sensors automatically shut off the radiant panels and ventilation system. Educational signage and an information kiosk that displays energy consumption data are presented in an easy-to-understand manner, making sustainability education part of the guest experience.
Reducing energy consumption was a key design driver for the design team. In addition to radiant heating and cooling and natural ventilation, the Gateway Center is also supported by a geothermal well field composed of 48 405-foot-deep wells. Loop water is circulated through the ground, carrying heat away from the building during warm periods and supplying heat to the building during cool periods, and into the building to water-to-water heat pumps. The water-to-water heat pumps have the ability to simultaneously provide heating and cooling water without using any extra energy by capturing heat from areas that need cooling and circulating it to spaces needing heat.
The Gateway Center derives additional power from the College’s existing photovoltaic array. Oberlin’s on-campus 2.27 megawatt solar array covers 10 acres, providing the Gateway Center with 20% of its annual electricity.
As measured by Energy Use Intensity, the building is within the top ranking of commercial structures in North America, using 55% less energy than comparable buildings.
The Gateway Center is located at the central point of the City of Oberlin and Oberlin College, serving as a place where town and gown meet. It is adjacent to the community public square, Tappen Square, offering a place for community members and students to gather. The project builds upon the city and College’s long bike tradition with ample bike parking and proximity to the 20-mile intercity bikeway, the Center. The project has a walk score rating of 78.
As Oberlin is part of the Green Arts District, it was pertinent that art played a major role in the project’s design. Ohio native Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., created a three-part installation called “An Ecological Primer: A landscape in 3 parts” that spans the hotel’s lobby and grounds.
The design team also sought to make the building itself a teaching tool for green design. Guest rooms are fitted with indicator lights that show when outdoor conditions are suitable for opening the windows. When the windows are open, sensors automatically shut off the radiant panels and ventilation system. Educational signage and an information kiosk that displays energy consumption data are presented in an easy-to-understand manner, making sustainability education part of the guest experience.
Rainwater is harvested and used for landscape irrigation, while on-site bio-retention basins slowly filter storm water. The use of efficient plumbing fixtures within the building achieved a 40% water use reduction from the LEED baseline.
The interior design for the Gateway Center utilizes natural, salvaged, and recycled materials throughout the building. The designer sourced 50% of building materials from within 500 miles from Oberlin. For example, the exterior stone cladding is from a quarry that is just 15 miles from the site, and 95% of the wood is FSC certified. The central stair is made from wood from a dismantled 19th century farmhouse and was designed and installed by local carpenters. A reclaimed wood bench within the building was sourced out of Cleveland, and there are locally sourced accent pieces in the admissions lobby. All architectural finishes were sourced from within the U.S.
In addition, all of the new materials with low volatile organic compounds (VOC) were specified to minimize off-gassing and improve interior air quality.
Design Architect (FIRM)
Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB)
Hospitality Interior Designer
Hotel Consultant / Project Manager
Art Instillation and Landscape Design