Work is currently underway on a new mixed-use development at Ohio's Oberlin College that, once complete later this year, will include one of only a handful of hotels pursuing LEED Platinum certification in the United States. The hotel operator is Olympia Companies, based in Portland, Maine. In addition to 70 guest rooms, the building features a restaurant focused on local food, 10,000 square feet of retail, a conference center, and a basement jazz club. Rounding out the facility's 105,000 square feet will be offices for the college's admissions and development staff. The Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center, developed by Cleveland's Smart Hotels, was planned to be “the cornerstone of Oberlin's Green Arts District,” at the intersection of North Main Street and East College Street. Chicago architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz designed the project, which will draw on Oberlin's existing 13-acre solar photovoltaic farm adjacent to campus. Smart Hotels' Christopher Noble said the design team worked with the New York office of Germany's Transsolar on the development of that solar farm, and the new building will not throw Oberlin off its target of purchasing 100 percent renewable energy for electricity by the end of 2015. Mechanical engineers KJWW helped finesse the building's fully radiant heating and cooling, which employs no forced-air ventilation—although some back-of-house areas will still use some water-source heat pumps, Noble said. “We're relying on nonconventional HVAC systems,” said Noble, who added that heating and cooling needs will be fulfilled fully from geothermal wells on site. The building is expected to be certified LEED Platinum after opening early next year. While the design team hasn't assessed the payback period for the building's sustainable features, Noble said Oberlin made energy efficiency a project priority. “It wasn't a cost issue,” he said. “It was a design issue—we were going to make a statement and do this.” Of the $35 million total project cost, $12 million came from outside donors, including $5 million from the building's namesake, the late philanthropist and chairman of Progressive Insurance Company, Peter B. Lewis.
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Beloit College in south central Wisconsin powered down its natural gas-fired Blackhawk Generating Station in 2005, but the building isn't out of steam yet. Chicago's Studio Gang Architects will help find new life for the former Alliant Energy property, connecting it by bridge to nearby residential and academic buildings. “We’re excited to work with Beloit College to transform an outmoded source of electricity into a wellspring of human energy,” Jeanne Gang said in a press release. “Our hope is that by reclaiming the Beloit waterfront for people, our project will inspire other communities around the globe to see human well-being as vitally interconnected with a healthy and clean environment.” Renovation of the riverside powerhouse is expected to be complete in 2018. Studio Gang said programs will include a coffee shop, lounges and student club rooms, a conference center, and a lecture hall / theater. The building will also house an 8-lane competition pool with space for 250 spectators, a 10,000-square foot fitness center, a 17,000-square foot gym, and a 3-lane track weaving through preserved coal bunkers and steel tubing. Gang will also salvage the building's brick walls and tile wainscoting, improving energy efficiency by harnessing the Rock River. An “isothermal envelope” will transfer energy from the adjacent river through a network of tubes under the exterior skin, “transforming the building walls into a radiant surface that will maintain a constant temperature within the Powerhouse throughout the year.” The 130,000-square foot project is part of an ongoing redevelopment of Beloit's riverfront, tying in with the Beloit 2020 plan to remake the formerly industrial Rock River as a community attraction. Bike paths, a river walk and riverside housing “will draw people back into the heart of Beloit,” according to a statement from Beloit College.