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WOLF LAKE -- Goshen College will begin the initial building phase next month of Merry Lea's $2 million project of Rieth Village, an environmentally sustainable village offering housing and research opportunities.
The first phase includes two cottages that could house 32 students and a third cottage that will contain a classroom and office building. Luke Gascho, Merry Lea's executive director, said the objective of the project was to enable on-site studying for a number of courses.
"The programs are very field-based," said Gascho. "So getting out into the 1,150 acres of land is a critical component of learning."
Starting in June 2007, a 10-week summer track of courses in natural history and agroecology will be offered. Students at Goshen College and those from other colleges will be able to participate. The buildings will be done by late fall of this year, but the students won't be able to move in until April 2006.
Gascho said there won't be an extra fee because it will fit within the existing college fee structure for tuition and room and board.
Merry Lea Collegiate Facility, named Rieth Village after founding donors Lee and Mary Jane Rieth, was designed using the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. These guidelines include ratings in energy and atmosphere, water efficiency, use of environmentally friendly materials and indoor air quality.
The product is registered on the platinum level, the highest of any project in Indiana.
Gascho said features of the project will include a 10-kilowatt wind generator, a wastewater treatment system, solar water heaters and a system for storm water management.
The architectural firm and project leader that designed Rieth Village was Morrison Kattman Menze Inc., Fort Wayne. Partner Michael McKay, an Elkhart Central High School graduate and a registered architect, said this is the only project the firm has worked on where the owner wanted an official LEED. He said many places want parts of LEED, but not a fully LEED-certified project.
"There are only about 10 buildings in the United States that are on the platinum level," McKay said.
McKay said it has been a little difficult "where design meets the reality of the budget," because people in the Midwest aren't as familiar with LEED as those on the east and west coasts. Contractors and builders are not used to seeing some of the materials and some of the designs, so they automatically think it needs to cost more.
"It's been a learning process for us and our firm. We're anxious to have it in the ground and built, so people can see it for themselves. It's very exciting to finally reach that milestone."
The project's contractor, Hamilton Hunter Builders of Fort Wayne, will be limited in the construction process, having to avoid compacting the soil and re-seeding any exposed topsoil to prevent erosion. The area also will be seeded with native plants after construction is finished.
Holly Hunter of Hamilton Hunter Builders said the market has gotten to a point where the "green building" products have evolved in quality and are a viable commercial product that people can use more frequently.
"This is where the future of construction is going," said Hunter.
The second phase of the project will include a 20,000-square-foot academic building and four more cottages. Phase two will begin three to five years after an additional $6.5 million is raised.
Contact Melissa Madden at email@example.com.