VT's Newest Green Building

Sep 19, 2013

This week a plaque will be unveiled making Lavery Hall Virginia Tech’s sixth LEED certified green building. The state of art dining facility inside, Turner Place has been lauded for it’s food, but now the new building is also being honored for its commitment to the environment.  

 Audio FileRobbie Harris reports from Blacksburg.Edit | Remove

Virginia Tech’s newest dining hall opened its doors last fall and immediately became the place on campus to eat.   From gourmet coffee and smoothies, 3 national chains and 5 self-branded operations offer a myriad of options.  It’s not the traditional college dining hall experience, but neither is it like the food court at the mall.

“We don’t like the term food court we do destination dining, is what we are, so we see about  8-10 thousand people come through the doors a day," said  John Barrett, Assistant Director at Turner Place. He is something of an expert on the food at Tech. He worked in dining services as a student and for the last 23 years as a pro.

“Right here an “1872 Fire Grill” we’ve got a piece of equipment that is a char broiler and it is from Mesquite, Texas. It’s custom made piece of equipment but it’s the first one at the university and it’s solid fuel, which means, basically, open flame, there’s no gas, no electricity, it’s basically like you’re cooking over an outdoor flame.  All the wood is locally sourced.”

Grilling like this cuts down on heat in the kitchen, reducing cooling costs. 93 per cent of the wood, for cooking and for the building, comes from sustainably managed forests.  And just like on the rest of Tech’s campus, recycling bins are everywhere, but only here is the mother of all composters. It’s known as the Somat, made by a Pennsylvania company.  It can transform 8 huge bins of what others would call compostable waste into one tidy bin.

“You can see the product in there, it is finely chopped up and it’s fairly dry. It has about 90 percent of the water removed, and you can look at the trash bins over there that’s coming out of the trash bins and things like that, it’s not chopped up and has a lot of the water still contained in it. So this actually will take it in there’s machine that presses everything, it removes the water and returns the water to a closed loop system.”

To satisfy the beautiful beast, a specific garbage separation system must be followed.

“I think everyone makes an effort to use it. You se people pause in front of it and read all the signs and then like decide where each one goes," said history major Kayla Schroder.

University officials say it was students who first raised the call for sustainability on campus in 2006. During Earth Week, two years later, President Charles Steger announced a commitment to climate action, including a requirement that all new buildings be LEED certified. But that was long after many other schools, towns, whole cities and states made even larger commitments to going green.

“Virginia Tech is in SW VA we’re not in the center of a major metro area, which I think if you look is where a lot of the sustainability initialize began. I would just say in general the SE part of the US was a little bit more reluctant or it took a little more time for these schools to embrace," said  Denny Cochrane, who heads the Office of Energy and Sustainability at Virginia Tech.  

"But what I really thought was a bold move from the president was not to just jump n this bandwagon of feel good and go ahead and sign this generic American university presidents’ climate initiative, which people were committing to before they had any idea if they could achieve that. Totally backwards from how you would normally do any kind of a plan. You wouldn't’ commit to it until you’ve studied it and realized you can do it or here’s what I can do.”

Lavery Hall will become an official Leader in Energy and Environmental Design with a LEED silver rating at a dedication Friday as part of Celebrate Sustainability Week.  

This is the seventh year of the awareness program, a joint effort between the town of Blacksburg and Virginia Tech.