Locations and Facilities
SEAS Facilities on and off campus
The Samuel Trask Dana Building has been home to the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) since 1961. The building, located on the University of Michigan’s central campus Diag, is over a hundred years old. Recently it underwent a major renovation involving the addition of space and the incorporation of renewable energy systems, water conservation measures, and “green” building materials. The Dana Building is now a model of green building practices and a state-of-the-art learning facility.
Saginaw Forest and Stinchfield Woods, two wooded areas off campus, serve as field research sites. But SEAS students spend more time engaged in activities in the Dana Building’s common areas, specialized labs, and landscape architecture studios.
The Dana Building houses about three dozen labs. Many are places for the hands-on study of systems and natural resources such as water, soil, plants, and live animals. Some are teaching labs where students learn to conduct analyses of aquatic and terrestrial systems as part of their regular coursework.
Several cutting-edge technologies were used to meet SEAS' energy conservation goals. The installation of active and passive solar systems greatly increased the building’s energy efficiency:
- The active system consists of photovoltaic panels fastened to the roof. The electricity they generate supplements energy from the university’s power plant.
- The passive solar system consists of a 4,000-square-foot skylight covering the old courtyard that helps heat the building. Shades on the south side keep the building cool in the summer.
The skylight also brings daylight into many interior workspaces, making artificial lighting unnecessary. Areas that require artificial light are lit by sensor-activated fluorescent light fixtures—more energy efficient than incandescent and halogen lamps.
A ceiling-level radiant cooling system was also installed. This system, in which cold water running through copper pipes acts as a heat sink for warm air in the room, is healthier, quieter, and less costly than traditional forced-air systems and wall-unit air conditioners. Additional energy-saving measures included insulating the building’s exterior walls and installing a digital control system to detect shortages, leaks, and other problems.
Water Conservation and Green Landscaping
The Dana Building is now equipped with several water-saving fixtures, too:
Sensor-activated water faucets, low-flow plumbing fixtures, waterless urinals, and three composting toilets. Areas outside the building contain plants native to the Northeast and the Midwest, and many are native to southeast Michigan. The careful choice of plantings reduces the need for irrigation; provides local habitats for insects, birds, and small mammals; and offers a continuous show of beauty throughout the year.
Sustainability was a prime concern as building materials were chosen. A decision was made to salvage and reuse several materials that would otherwise had gone into a landfill. Other components came from recycled or renewable sources. Here are a few examples:
Reused materials: Timbers from the attic were re-milled for furniture and trim. For the sake of privacy, restroom windows opening onto the newly created Ford Commons were filled with brick salvaged from the old courtyard.
Recycled materials: Office furniture and auditorium chairs were upholstered with fabric made from plastic bottles. Bathroom walls and floors were covered with tiles composed of recycled glass from airplane windshields.
Renewable materials: The second-floor conference room was covered with natural cork flooring made from the outer bark of the “cork oak” tree, harvested periodically but leaving the tree unharmed. Other floors were covered with carpeting made from 100% raw wool.
An Award-Winning Design
SEAS received a Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating from the U.S. Green Building Council for the Dana renovation. It was the first major renovation of an academic building to receive such a high rating for sustainable construction in Michigan and among the first in the nation.
SEAS is home now serves as an example for others planning to undertake green renovations of their homes, offices, and other large buildings. Together with its specialized labs and field research sites nearby, the Dana Building is an excellent place for the study of natural resources and the pursuit of environmental careers.