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West Virginia University Buildings Getting High Tech/Green Renovations

A new home for the Department of Geology and Geography in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will be ready Monday (July 2) when Brooks Hall on West Virginia University’s Downtown Campus reopens following 20 months of extensive renovations.

The building has undergone a $28.8 million facelift including the addition of “smart” classrooms, new computer and virtual reality labs, a 350-seat auditorium/lecture hall and wireless computer access.

In addition, a “green roof” reduces heating and cooling loads on the facility and increases the roof’s life span. This technology also filters pollutants and reduces storm water runoff.

Plenty of natural light through energy-efficient windows, an optimal energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system and other efficiencies create an ecologically friendly “green” building and a more vibrant learning environment, officials say.

A new pedestrian bridge that connects the fifth floor of Brooks to the Woodburn Promenade will also make it easier for students and employees to travel across the main part of campus.

Faculty and staff will now spend the next few weeks preparing the new classrooms and research laboratories for the Aug. 20 start of the fall semester.

“The renovation of Brooks Hall provides faculty, staff and students with state of the art instructional and research laboratory space,” said Russell Dean, senior associate provost for WVU. “Extensive facilities for computer aided research and the use of virtual reality coupled with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology really put WVU at the leading edge of the discipline for many years to come.”

Mary Ellen Mazey, dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and a professor in the geography program, said the College is pleased with the investment the University has made in Brooks Hall.

“With the increased national and international emphasis upon the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, we are proud of these new research laboratories and the instructional technology classrooms,” Mazey said. “The Department of Geology and Geography has achieved national recognition for its GIS research and instruction, and now they have a facility that is also recognized for its ability to meet their present and future needs.”

The lecture hall and “smart classrooms” feature projection video/screens, sound systems and personal response systems that allow instructors to use remote clickers to quiz or poll their classes.

“Our students will benefit from expanded availability of computer labs for use in their advanced courses as well as classrooms that provide a 21st century learning environment,” Dean said. “The state of the art wet lab space enables our geology faculty to expand their engagement in research directly related to achieving an appropriate

balance between environmental issues such as water quality and the natural resource-driven sectors of West Virginia’s economy.”

Also housed in the building is the University’s GeoVirtual Laboratory which provides cutting-edge mapping applications, including virtual reality maps and 3-D views of land features that allow users to experience places around the state and country without leaving the lab. Located on the first floor, the lab features a glass wall that lets visitors observe the research going on within.

One of the most interesting aspects of the building—the “vegetated, green roof”—is covered with a waterproof membrane and layers of soil and plant life. The plants act much like a cactus, plumping up to absorb rain water and reducing the amount of water entering the city storm water system, said John Sommers, project manager with WVU Facilities Management. The roofs have been common in Europe since the 1980s, he said, and work to filter any excess water not absorbed by the plants.

“The vegetation extends the life of the roof by 50 percent and provides additional R-value insulation to help reduce the costs of heating and cooling,” Sommers added. “Green roofs also improve the aesthetics of a building. The plants grow six to eight inches high and change colors with the seasons, creating a very nice appearance that looks better than a traditional asphalt or stone roof.”

The energy-efficient windows provide generous amounts of natural light to help light hallways, laboratories and classrooms and reduce the amount of electricity used to light the interior of the building, he added. Special air handlers help moderate the interior temperature of the building by drawing in more outside air when the temperature is more moderate, also cutting down on heating and cooling costs. In colder weather, exhaust heat from the building is run through a series of baffles and used to pre-heat fresh air entering the building from outside.

Named for the four Brooks brothers who held close ties with WVU and "the biological life of West Virginia,” the 91,500 square-foot building was first opened in 1951 and housed the University’s biology department. Biology moved to the Life Sciences building when it opened in fall 2002. Prior to the Brooks renovations, geology and geography was housed in White Hall.

Also nearing completion is an extensive renovation to Oglebay Hall, built in 1918 as home to the School of Agriculture. The classroom building received an exterior facelift to preserve the structure’s classic façade along with an interior reconfiguration and modernization to meet the classroom and laboratory needs of the high-tech field of forensic science.

The building—one of 10 at WVU to be listed on the National Register of Historic

Places—will feature eight general classrooms, two floors specifically for forensic instruction, two biology teaching laboratories, new quarters for the University classroom technology unit and improved handicap accessibility.

Connected to Oglebay will be a new, yet-to-be named classroom building with two lecture halls and two large auditoriums, plus a rooftop parking deck.

This facility, still undergoing final renovations, is also set to open by fall semester.

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