Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone construction ending soon

Green building technology used throughout Newark campus, planners say

By Todd R. Brown, Staff writer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

NEWARK—Amid the high-pitched "bleet-bleet" of fire alarms being tested, Ohlone College President Doug Treadway sauntered Monday through the rapidly progressing Newark campus building.

"We get the keys in three weeks," he said, a white hard-hat on his dome.

The college's $60 million health and technology center is set to open to students Jan. 28 and will have a dedication ceremony later that week. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and even President Bush are among those invited.

The wireless campus is green through and through, and officials and designers covet "platinum" status from the U.S. Green Building Council, meaning that nearly every aspect of the project was done with sustainability in mind.

"This is a very conscious move on their part to not only build a green building but to use it as a model and an education tool," said Peter Conrad of Perkins and Will Architects in San Francisco.

Conrad, doing construction administration for the project, said using recycled materials and local raw materials are examples of building approaches that give designers "points" on the road to green council glory.

Treadway said the construction cost included a 5 percent premium for environmentally friendly wares, or about $3 million. Yet he said savings on heating and electricity fees through an innovative geothermal air-conditioning system, amid other technology, will offset that amount in six years.

Initially, he said, the Cherry Street structure will save $400,000 a year through power conservation compared to a conventional building. He said the lifespan of the center is 50 to 60 years.

Twin "enthalpy" wheels in the main lobby are a unique example of the broad approach to conservation that designers took.

Visible through the wall, the wheels circulate outdoor and indoor air currents, recapturing heat and humidity from wind on cold days and returning it to the fresh air being drawn inside.

"You recover what would otherwisebe lost energy," Conrad said.

Behind the campus, a recreated wetland sits near soil contaminated by pesticides that Treadway said will be cleaned in about eight years by microorganisms.

Back inside, there will be few books to be had in the library, which will mostly house desks for laptop-toting students. Curricula in biotechnology, nursing and other fields will be primarily Web-based, Treadway said, drawing on public domain texts or purchasable online guides.

In the classrooms, full-spectrum lighting intended to simulate natural light will adjust to the amount of sunlight coming in. Treadway said no shadows are cast by the ambient system.

Leta Stagnaro, associate vice president of administration for the new campus, said each classroom also features one wall with a red or orange accent color designed to "keep the brain stimulated," while interlocking carpet squares with funky stripe designs do the same.

"They are a little retro, but there's a certain pattern to them that creates an energizing effect," she said.

Such "psychology of learning" details came out of a consultancy by the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning. Treadway said Ohlone worked for two years with the university to research the Newark campus environment.

He said because construction costs rose 1 percent a month and because of other "soft costs," such as engineering consultants, the overall project needs another $10 million in grants—which Treadway hopes to amass before his term as president ends June 30.

Staff writer Todd R. Brown covers Newark, Ohlone College and ethnic community issues. Reach him at 510-353-7004 or

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