Welcome! On this page you will find detailed information on some of the key features of Amherst College’s Greenway Dorms and how these features promote sustainability on campus. This site will be updated continuously in order to provide the most up-to-date knowledge on the performance of Greenway and its benefits to our college and community.
Stay tuned for our next featured topic!
How YOU Can Help this Winter by Jackie Calla '17E December 2016
Now that we’ve learned about some of the features of our new Greenway dorms let’s learn about two key points relevant to heating that will allow us to help Greenway perform at its optimum this winter!
The windows in Greenway provide an impressive thermal performance and have superior light diffusion by eliminating glare. For residents of the dorm to efficiently stay warm this winter, it is imperative that the windows are closed and latched shut. Just closing the windows isn’t enough; by latching, the seal around the perimeter of the window is fully engaged and will significantly cut down on the cold outside air infiltration. The air dampers of our Greenway dorms supply constant low flow fresh air tempered to 68-70 degrees, so there is no need to open the windows during the winter. By keeping windows latched shut, we can help Greenway’s radiant floor panels and ceilings perform at their best.
Floors and Ceilings
When we learned about the great radiant heating system in our Greenway dorms a few posts back, we learned that the ceilings and floors radiate heat throughout the room. Therefore, we know that it is important we maximize our exposure to the floors and ceilings to feel as warm and as comfortable as possible this winter. Fun fact: about 30% of the heat in Greenway comes from the floor surface, and 70% comes from the ceiling surface. What does this mean? We’re going to need to make sure that clothes are not left on the floor and that we do not store large items on the floor - if you have suitcases take advantage of the student storage area in the basement of C building. Since the majority of the heat comes from the ceiling slab, make sure to not hang tapestries, flags, or banners across the ceiling so that we can maximize the benefits of our radiant heating system.
This is not what we want!
Radiant Heating by Jackie Calla '17E November 2016
Now that the colder weather is arriving it’s time to learn more about our new Greenway Dorm’s radiant heating!
Background of Radiant Heating
Radiant heating is by no means new. One of the earliest examples of humans using radiant heating was the approach used by the Romans as early as the 1st century B.C. called hypocaust. The Romans used hypocaust in public spaces; it consisted of constructing buildings with a hollow space under the floor into which hot air was sent for heating rooms and bathrooms.
Radiant heating uses infrared to heat spaces. Unlike most commonly used heating systems, radiant heating does not rush air into a room but instead heats the objects that are in the direct pathway of the infrared rays. These objects (walls, floors, and ceilings) heat up and subsequently transfer and radiant the heat to other objects in the room. Radiant heating is a great way to transfer heat efficiently.
Radiant Heating at Greenway
In our Greenway dorms, there are 3 different layers of walls that allow the dorms to supply heat directly to the panels of the walls and to the floors. The ceiling of the dorms, for instance, have exposed structural concrete slab which have radiant tubing embedded. Nearly all dorm rooms have southern exposure to maximize views and benefit from passive solar heating. There are two forms of radiant heating: electric and hydronic. The type of radiant heating our Greenway Dorms use is hydronic - the most popular and cost-effective radiant heating system. The steam plant at Amherst facilitates the hydronic radiant heating system because the steam from the plant warms up the water allowing the heat to warm walls and radiate throughout the greenway dorms. The steam plant is a more efficient powerplant because it is a single source for electricity and thermal energy, and is located close to the point of use allowing for increased efficiency of energy conversion and usage. The hydronic radiant floor system pumps this warm water from the steam plant through tubing laid in a pattern under the floor and through the walls. As an added way to boost the effectiveness of heating our greenway dorms, the lighting has been installed on the walls to increase the heat that can be generated.
Rainwater Harvesting by Jackie Calla '17E November 2016
A feature of the new Greenway dorms is rainwater harvesting on the roofs. Harvesting of rainwater in Greenway simply involves the collection of water that has fallen and is collected from the roof and subsequently stored for later use.
The capturing and storing of rainwater goes back thousands of years to when humans first started to farm and needed to find new ways to irrigate crops. In hotter climates, capturing the occasional rainfall often meant the difference between life and death for some communities. The practice of rainwater harvesting decreased substantially as urbanization increased but, now we are again returning to this ancient and key method of greener living.
Rainwater Harvesting Techniques
The collection of rainwater from the roofs of our Greenway dorms is a fairly simple process. All that is needed to capture water is to direct the flow of rainwater from roof gutters to a rainwater storage tank. This way, water can be collected and used for various needs. Amherst College’s Greenway dorms also feature stormwater wetlands protection system. The main purpose of constructed stormwater wetlands is to maximize the removal of pollutants from stormwater runoff through settling and filtering by vegetation. As an added bonus, they stormwater wetland protection system at Greenway provides aesthetic features to the community.
Benefits in Rainwater Harvesting
The main usage of harvested rainwater in our Greenway dorms is for toilet use, feeding 75 toilets throughout the building. This saves an incredible amount of water, that would otherwise be supplied by nearby dams or aquifers. The ability to capture water directly allows us to significantly reduce our dependence on water storage dams. This is one of the main benefits from rainwater harvesting.