The bowl just south of Harkness Co-op will be the site of the planned Environmental Studies Center. The Trustees approved the site during their meetings last weekend.
Brad Masi, communications coordinator for the project, said that the area south of Harkness, including the land in front of South, was chosen because it is spacious enough to accommodate the building and is currently not being used. Other factors considered in selecting the site included the centrality of the location, solar access, shadow creation, traffic noise, air pollution and available garden space.
He said the goal of the project is "not to minimize environmental impact, but to maximize environmental benefit" of the land.
The Harkness site was also chosen because the College owns two houses adjacent to this land, on Elm Street. Masi said there is talk of retrofitting one or both of these houses as zero emissions co-ops for environmental studies students.
Retrofitting means adapting an existing building to a new design or function. Zero emissions means that a building does not create waste from the energy it uses. The center itself will be a zero emissions building.
Masi said that plans for the center's features and mission are still in the idea stage.
The land around the building is planned to be used to plant community gardens and to grow native and endangered species of trees and wildflowers. Planners hope landscaping will attract songbirds.
The building is to house a library for environmental studies, a large workspace to accommodate environmental studies projects, office space for college faculty or for community environmental organizations, a student study area, a small auditorium, a kitchen and an atrium which is to include a living machine.
A living machine is a mini-aquatic ecosystem of ferns, algae, and mosses which will feed off sewage. Masi said the living machine is part of the zero emissions goal for the building. He says that a species of fish, possibly an endangered species, may be introduced to the mini-ecosystem later to eat the plants.
Masi said that people probably will not be able to tell that the living machine processes sewage. He said that the atrium housing the living machine will look like an ordinary greenhouse and may smell musty.
The food produced in the gardens may go to the eating co-ops immediately around the Center site.
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 18; March 15, 1996
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