In the middle of Yale's gothic campus is a discreet arched building, shaped like a barn. Kroon Hall is one of the world's greenest office buildings. On this Earth week, WNPR's Samaia Hernandez takes us on a tour:
The 50 environmentally-conscious workers at Kroon Hall love this place. How much?
"My wife and I snuck in here with a justice of the peace and we got married right in that spot," said Matthew Garrett. Garett and Kristen Demeter were my tour guides through the headquarters for the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The school has been around since the dawn of the 20th Century. When it came time to build it a new home, Demeter says it was important to embody the school's mission. "The goal was to build the most environmentally friendly building, pretty much possible at the time," she said. One of 280 master's students here, Demeter hopes to work in energy efficiency for a utility or government program. For now, she's studying Kroon. "The school has been actually treating this as living laboratory," she said. So, what makes it green? It's a thick narrow building on the outside. But feels comfortable yet outdoorsy on the inside. Wood paneling harvested from one of Yale's own forests lines entrance way. Louvers fixed at the exact angle of the sun to the earth cover its facade on Prospect Street. "The design purpose is to actually maximize the daily sunlight coming into the building, but minimizing the glare on the building," Demeter said. So, there's no need for oil or natural gas. The heating and cooling system is geothermal. It's connected to wells that cycle water deep in the ground. "What you see here is an underfloor air distribution system. And so we're currently actually standing 14 inches above the real floor," Demeter said. Like a medieval castle, exposed concrete is as thick as a foot in some areas to help make the temperature comfortable. "That also helps moderate the temperature because it's a very large thermal mass and that by nature wants to hold its temperature. So if that is 68 degrees, even if the air is a little different it wants to help the air get back to 68 degrees," Garrett said. There are four stories above the basement with room for classrooms and study areas. One of its most charming features is uncommon to modern office buildings: "Green Days." When a light turns on, it's OK to open all the windows. Last April had the lowest energy costs with 29 of those days. During the day, sunlight flows through glass doors inside. And sensors control other lights. Outside, solar panels cover one side of the building, and seperate tubes heat faucet water. Students rest on a green roof that's actually covering a loading doc. And when it rains, the water is collected into underground cisterns. "And comes out through this ponte, which actually as as a natural filtration system. So, you see the reeds that are here? They will actually pull out anything that is not in the pure water and use that in their growth." The rainwater is used in toilets and it's also collected to prevent flooding in the area. "The intersection down here used to fill up like a small lake and since we've installed that, I haven't seen it happen again," Garrett said. Landscapers only planted native vegetation outside, and it doesn't require a lot of water. "It's beautiful now with all the daffodils in bloom," said Demeter. People from all over are constantly touring Kroon. Garrett says it's there for people to learn from and be inspired to adopt energy efficiency concepts. All of these sustainable systems were 5 percent of the building cost. So, Garrett says it only makes sense to go green.