When Bastyr University decided to build housing for students, Arlan Collins, a member of the school's board of regents and co-founder of CollinsWoerman, convinced the school it should not be typical dorm space.

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When Bastyr University decided to build housing for students, Arlan Collins, a member of the school’s board of regents and co-founder of CollinsWoerman, convinced the school it should not be typical dorm space.

The nearly completed project is anything but typical.

CollinsWoerman was invited to interview for the job, which initially was to be a traditional dorm block for 130 students. Having been involved with the school for about six years, Collins said he scratched his head when he saw the plan and asked himself why the school wanted something traditional.

Bastyr is a naturopathic university and is all about health and being in touch with the environment. Collins asked himself: What if we could actually build living environments that connect to the mission of the school?

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CollinsWoerman proposed an alternative approach with multiple structures that form a student village. Smaller living units would be cheaper to build, cost less to operate and be more flexible for residents. The company was hired.

The result is 11 cottages that each house 12 students. Cottages have three floors, with four bedrooms and a bathroom on each floor, as well as space for a kitchen and common area. The common areas face onto a central courtyard or walkway to encourage interaction.

The buildings are targeting LEED for homes platinum.

The $16.5 million project should be complete in July. Construction will cost $12 million. Schuchart is the general contractor. O’Brien & Co. is acting as the LEED for homes provider, which means it will verify the project meets the criteria.

The cottages occupy about 12 acres on Bastyr’s 52-acre campus and are badly needed by the student body. George Cody of Bastyr said the Kenmore campus has around 900 students. There isn’t much rental housing nearby, so students often live far away and commute.

The student village is designed to get students to interact. CollinsWoerman had previously done master planning for Microsoft, where it learned that a lot of intellectual energy is created by groups of 12 people or less. Each building in the village will house 12 people, and the common areas will provide spaces where they can meet with other students.

Flexible housing is important, Cody said, because the average student at Bastyr is in their late 20s and prefers an independent living situation.

Buildings are naturally ventilated, have radiant floor heating and high efficiency boilers. All plumbing is low flow and all appliances are certified Energy Star. The buildings have locally sourced, FSC-certified wood.

Collins said the greenest thing about the project is eliminating space that would have been necessary in a traditional dorm, but that Bastyr students didn’t need, such as corridors, multiple stairs and elevators. “We get this wonderful little building that is very small scale and is exactly what we want and none of what we don’t want.”

Collins said too often green design is like baking a typical cake and just adding green sprinkles on top. Teams do what they have always done and then add green technology at the end.

“I believe sustainability is a different cake. It’s one that uses less energy and less materials. I think this is on the way toward a green cake,” he said. “When you delete 15 percent of the gross area of a building, it doesn’t get any more sustainable than that.”

Water is also a big focus for Bastyr’s cottages. The “butterfly roofs” are angled upward on both sides to catch rain. They are also designed to support green roofs in the future and will do so if the budget allows. Water from the site goes into a nearby vault the size of an Olympic-sized swimming pool that is beneath a parking lot.

Collins said the project did not get all of the features the team wanted but he thinks it is more sustainable than most, because it costs less and will use less energy than a typical dorm. He expects it will be the first U.S. student housing project to win LEED for homes platinum.

Collins said the most impressive thing about the student village is that Bastyr decided to build it even as the world went into a financial tailspin.

“That was a bold move. That was real leadership,” he said. “It actually says there are different ways to do this building and it isn’t a version of a dorm block in a parking lot.”

Moving forward during hard economic times has had benefits. Collins said the project cost about 10 percent less than it did when the team priced it a year earlier, and the savings allowed more green features to be added.

Joe Giaudrone, assistant project manager with Schuchart, said subcontractors wanted to learn about green technologies and were easy to work with. “They were very receptive to our needs and I believe this is a sign of the times.”

There were also savings because the cottages are so similar. The crew got faster and more efficient as it went along.

The team also benefited from economies of scale. Each building, for example, uses the same type of cabinets.

“We were able to get the quality we got for the prices we did because we used the process of repetition,” he said. “The reason we got all that is we took out the stuff we didn’t need.”

Other project members include KPFF, structural and civil engineer; Site Workshop, landscape architect; Pressler Engineering, mechanical engineer; Blumen Consulting Group, entitlement consultant; Shannon & Wilson, geotech; Tree Solutions, arborist; Anchor Environmental, wetlands delineation; Rolf Jensen and Associates, fire protection engineer; Heffron Transportation, traffic consultant; SSA, acoustical consultant; and RDH Building Sciences, building envelope.

Information from: Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, http://www.djc.com/