On Tuesday afternoon, Heather Gillette, Susan Smith and I attended the session held in Pugh Auditorium to hear about the environmental impacts of the new Admissions and Welcome Center currently under construction adjacent to Starling Hall. The session was led by Jim Alty with assistance from Keith Callahan and representatives from Lambert Architecture. The construction of the new building and parking areas are expected to be completed in February, 2011 and the building is hoping to get a “silver” LEED designation. The building will have improved parking allowing for places for buses to park as well as expanded lots for cars, and a 260 seat auditorium, more workspace and office space for the admissions staff. The presentation made heavy use of overhead photos to allow us to understand the rationale for site placement.

In his remarks, Jim Alty explained that while we all love our mature tree canopy on this campus, that the canopy itself is really no older than the new campus. In original photos taken of the area when the first few buildings were built, you could see that the campus used to be farmland. The forested areas have been planted and cared for since the campus moved here. The site for the new building was chosen because:

  • It was close to the entrance of the university, but not far from the heart of it
  • it was chosen over other proposed areas because that sector of land contained many invasive species, not native plants
  • the native plants that were growing on the space were removed and replanted elsewhere on campus

In responding to the charge that more cover had been removed from the area than was in the original design, Keith and Jim both said that they had to change the plans from the original plans that had been circulated as a result of new stormwater run off conditions that had been put in place by the city of Winston Salem. Essentially, projects constructed now have to engineer a way to manage the run off that would be expected in a 25 year flood. This caused some removal of some more trees and creation of some retention ponds that will be dry most of the time, but will be utilized if such a great rain fall occurs.

All plant materials that were removed from the site have been either replanted on campus or ground up into chips. None of it was landfilled. The topsoil and chips were removed off site since there was no ability to use it immediately on campus and storing it, since it would be such a large amount, would be detrimental to the trees that it was stored around.

At the end of the program more overhead drawings were shown of the area where the new building will be, indicating summer growth approximately 5 years later. Many of the areas where trees had been removed will be replanted with hardwoods to bring back more of the forested feel. I think the view from the path to Reynolda Village will never be exactly the same, but when all is said and done, it will be an improvement from what we see now.