UW Today

September 28, 2011

Two new student residence halls, and an increased commitment to sustainability

News and Information

The new Cedar Apartments, housing about 345 students. This building and Poplar Hall, housing 270 students, are both open for business this fall.

The new Cedar Apartments, housing about 345 students. This building and Poplar Hall, housing 270 students, are both open for business this fall.Mary Levin

A new era in University of Washington student housing is beginning this month as Housing & Food Services opens two new buildings — one with student apartments and the other a residence hall with a powerful commitment to sustainability.

The new halls are part of a four-building, $160 million project that will enable the UW to house hundreds more students on the west side of campus.

The new buildings are the Cedar Apartments on 41st Street, with 344 beds; and Poplar Hall on Campus Parkway at Brooklyn Ave. NE, which will have 270 beds. The other two buildings, Elm Hall and Alder Hall, are under construction and scheduled to open in fall of 2012.

Cedar will provide four-bedroom apartments with fully-equipped kitchens and two bathrooms totaling between 730 and 880 square feet. Poplar will have double rooms, each with a  bathroom, as well as a music practice room and a learning resource center accessible to all students on the ground floor.

Poplar Hall's third floor is the home of the building's Sustainability Community. At top is the sign on the third floor wall. Below, students relax with a card game in one of the public areas.

Both are energy-efficient buildings, but Poplar is particularly energy- and water-efficient, and is on track to receive a Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating. Its third floor is also the home of its Sustainability Community dedicated to a minimal environmental impact and social equity. The other three buildings in this development will be LEED silver.

“Fifty-four students have actually committed to be sustainable in their everyday life through a pledge,” explained Amanda Lobsinger, the buildings resident director. “They had to go through this pledge before even getting their housing assignment, which is a step that this community takes that others dont.”

Jessica Randall, resident aide and a student in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, said student interest in the Sustainability Community is running high. “Ive had a lot of people already stop by asking what kind of things well be doing early in the quarter. We have a lot of programs planned and I think were going to get a really good turnout. Its a very motivated community.”

Events include a welcome barbecue held Wednesday and featuring Poplars “campus partners” such as the College of the Environment and student groups such as SEED (Students Expressing Environmental Dedication), which has an office in Poplar.

On Poplar Hall's second floor is this wall where, if viewed from a distance, the image looks like books on bookshelves. Below, part of the second floor common area.

Randall added, “Were also looking for our students to be advocates for what were doing here, because there are a lot of unique features that might take some getting used to.”

JR Fulton, HFS capital planning and sustainability manger, noted several of these construction features, which also will figure in upcoming tours of Poplar:

  • a monitor of energy usage with an energy dashboard kiosk in the main lobby (also in Cedar Apartments).
  • a low-energy heat recovery system
  • high-efficiency condensing boilers for hot water
  • variant refrigerant flow heating, venting and air conditioning for lower floors
  • thermostats in rooms to allow students to control heat in their room, but which sets the temperature lower when the space is unoccupied
  • most lighting and appliances that meet EnergStar standards

“In addition to energy conservation, we are targeting water use at approximately 35 percent below code,” Fulton wrote in an email. “We use healthy, nontoxic materials in all of our finishes and furniture, to minimize out-gassing in new spaces.” Fulton added that Poplar has a large interior bike room and facilities for separating waste, recycling and compost buildingwide.

Rob Lubin, HFS associate director for facilities and capital planning, added that with the ongoing west campus development, “The UW is creating a very dense and energy-efficient living environment” where students have many resources close at hand and are near both campus and public transportation.

Mercer Hall, with its 450 beds, was demolished as part of the development, so the net increase of beds this quarter is 164.

Under construction are Elm Hall, at Campus Parkway between Brooklyn Ave. NE and 12th Ave. NE, and Alder Hall, also on Campus Parkway next to Lander Hall. Elm Hall will have about 440 beds and a fitness center and restaurant on the ground floor. Alder will have about 550 beds and will include an auditorium and a neighborhood market.

HFS is financially self-sufficient, so the buildings are going up at no cost to taxpayers.

The next development phase after these four buildings will reach out to the year 2021 and include additional residence halls and apartment buildings as well as the renovation of the existing residence halls.

David Rey, communications manager for HFS, said construction on the whole first phase is on schedule and budget. “I think the biggest surprise for most people who were here during the summer is how fast the buildings are actually going up.”

  • Open house: “Discover West Campus” — UW Housing & Food Services will hold an open house to show off the new Poplar Hall and Cedar Apartments 2-4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27. To learn more, contact Tammy Taecker at ttaecker@hfs.washington.edu.