Office of Energy and Sustainability

Green Buildings

In June of 2006 the Oberlin College Board of Trustees adopted a policy that all new construction and major renovations on campus have to be designed and built in accordance with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver standard or equivalent.

The adoption of this standard will reduce the use of resources on campus in the future, as the built spaces will both be built more efficiently and perform more efficiently.

The AJLC was one of the first and most innovative green buildings on a college campus. It helped launch the green building movement of the mid 1990s and its innovative systems have since inspired green buildings in many other locations and settings. In 2010, Architect Magazine polled 150 green building experts and named the AJLC the top green building built since 1980.

Living Machine Wastewater Treatment System

The Living Machine processes wastewater into reusable grey water via the natural cleansing methods that occur in a wetland—plants, bacteria, protozoa, and other aquatic microorganisms are used to clean and condition the water for reuse. It is located in the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, and it is operated by a group of about 10 students. The Living Machine provides excellent opportunities for Oberlin College students and the community to explore issues of wastewater, wetland ecology, microbiology and plant dynamics.

Solar Parking Pavilion

With the installation of a new solar parking pavilion adjacent to the existing photovoltaic (PV) array on the roof of the innovative AJLC, Oberlin had the largest PV array in Ohio at the time, with a total rated production of 159 kW. By using the solar energy produced by the PV array, the college produces most of the electricity needed for the building.

Opened in Fall 2010, Kahn Hall is sustainability-themed first-year residence hall. Its sustainable design and in-depth energy metering through the Campus Resource Monitoring System  provide students the opportunity to explore how their actions effect their resource usage. For its sustainable design components, Kahn received LEED NC Silver certification.

The E.A.R.R.T.H. (Environmentally Active in Reducing use of Resources Themed Housing) House is an intentional community of Oberlin students who seek to practice an environmentally conscious lifestyle.  

E.A.R.R.T.H House’s mission is to establish a focus on individual and community based practices to reduce consumption of resources, to connect with other environmental groups on campus, and to function as a space for increased awareness of environmental concerns.

Serve as a community of Oberlin Students who are seeking to lower their personal carbon footprints and living a life based on reducing, reusing, and recycling goods. The house is already equipped with monitoring technology that allows you to view the environmental impacts of the choices made.

The Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM) at Oberlin College is one of the finest academic art museums in the country. The museum was designed by Cass Gilbert in 1917. The building grew with a wing for studio art in 1937 and an addition by Venturi/Rauch/Scott Brown in 1977 housing the studio and art history departments, the fine arts library, and a large gallery for modern and contemporary art. 

In 2005, the historic museum was renovated to upgrade mechanical, lighting, space, and climate control systems. Samuel Anderson Architects were selected for the renovation. New subterranean spaces were created for collection storage and mechanical equipment. With geothermal wells and innovative HVAC design, AMAM’s carbon footprint was reduced by 75% and achieved LEED Gold certification. All galleries were refurbished with highly flexible new lighting, new glass ceilings, and a discreet new security system.

Oberlin Conservatory unveiled the sleek and modernistic Bertram and Judith Kohl Building, which serves as home to jazz studies as well as programs in composition, musicology, and music theory. Opened in 2010, the Kohl Building is connected to the conservatory complex by a ground-level plaza and a third-story, glass-walled, cantilevered section.

Kohl includes flexible rehearsal and performance spaces, teaching studios, practice rooms, music archives and exhibits, and instrument storage. It also houses the superior recording studio Clonick Hall as well as the conservatory library’s Special Collections, which has the largest privately held collection of jazz recordings in the United States.

Earning a LEED Gold designation from the U.S. Green Building Council, the Kohl Building is a cornerstone of Oberlin’s commitment to environmentally sustainable building practices. It honors the late Wendell Logan, professor of African American music and founder of Oberlin’s jazz studies program.

Green Cleaning Chemicals

Oberlin has recently switched to the use of an environmentally-friendly multi-purpose cleaner called H2Orange2 made by Envirox. The new cleaning solutions are hydrogen peroxide based and are biodegradable. The product is far less toxic than typical cleaning solutions due to the elimination of chemicals used in common janitorial cleaning products (phosphates, high pH detergents, alcohols, ammonia, amines, chlorine bleach, APE’s, acids, caustics, quaternary ammonium compounds, dyes, and fragrances). The new multi-purpose cleaner is equally effective as a sanitizer to less environmentally-friendly products, and it is non-toxic to humans and aquatic life.

Carpet Recycling and Vendor Selection

Oberlin College both purchases and recycles all of the carpet on campus through Legacy Commercial Flooring. In 2003 the college won the State of Ohio Department of Administrative Services STS Recycler of the Year Award for the amount of carpet it recycled. Over the past four years, Oberlin has recycled 177,057 square feet of used carpet (equal to 111,507 lbs). According to the Antron Reclamation Program Calculator, this is equivalent to a savings of 208.8 cubic yards of landfill space, 112,136.1 gallons of water, 184,434.4 pounds of CO2, and 1,227,418,143 BTUs of energy. Through recycling its old carpets and in turn buying carpet from the company, Oberlin reduces the necessity to extract new resources by both keeping its old carpet out of landfills and also helping to create economic demand for recycled-content carpets.

No VOC Paints Used in Any Campus Buildings

Oberlin College uses Sherwin Williams  harmony paints, in all campus buildings. These paints have no odor, no silicates, and no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Oberlin protects the health of the campus community by carefully selecting products such as these that will not negatively impact indoor air quality.

Williams Field House renovation achieved LEED Gold. The building was opened in 2009 and features turf, large fans, skylights, and operable windows along its green features.

The new Hotel at Oberlin was built with LEED Platinum in mind. In addition to guest rooms, the hotel boast a restaurant (1833) serving local foods, performance spaces, and ballrooms for conference and wedding activities. The hotel features geothermal wells, rainwater harvesting, and creative reuse among it's green design.