Mari Fox: Haywood Community College: A local leader in sustainability

Haywood Community College: A local leader in sustainability

By Mari Fox on 03/13/2013

Photos by Max Cooper

More than four years ago, then-Haywood Community College President Rose Johnson signed the 2008 American College and Universities’ Presidents’ Climate Commitment. She joined the nearly 700 schools pledging to cut campus emissions that contribute to global warming, apply green-building practices and incorporate sustainability into the curriculum.

Campus initiatives have since included a biofuels project that collects waste grease and converts it to fuel, an electric-motor fleet with its own charging station, a best-in-North-Carolina recycling project, and two new buildings that meld the school’s philosophy with its mission: the Professional Crafts Building and the Sustainable Development Research House.

Slated to open in spring 2013, the Professional Crafts Building offers craftspeople-in-training a place to learn such skills as jewelry making while enjoying modern features like high-tech classrooms, solar-thermal radiant floor heating, natural lighting and a host of other green-building features. Further, it will likely be the first LEED-NC Platinum building in Western North Carolina.

The Research House, meanwhile, is a hands-on project from start to finish: In the past two years, it has been built by students in the college’s Building Construction Technology/Green Building program.

Both projects demonstrate that HCC is a fertile breeding ground for earth-friendly, eco-minded people, practices, and places dedicated to preserving nature and the heritage of true Appalachian culture.

State of the art and crafts
Funded by a quarter-cent sales-tax referendum, the $8.5 million, 41,000-square-foot Professional Crafts Building will provide faculty, staff and students with a state-of-the-art sanctuary and living laboratory that fosters learning and exploring craft traditions such as woodworking, furniture design, pottery, jewelry and fiber arts.

With the nod to traditional crafts comes a touch-screen, sophisticated climate-control system for the interior spaces, along with a host of other green-building features that will a Platinum LEED designation — the highest possible.

“The collaboration and ideas of all parties — students, faculty, trustees — was considered in the functional design of this building,” says Bill Dechant, director of campus development.

To start with a clean slate instead of trying to renovate, he explains, the project launched with the demolition of the original 1960s building. Raleigh, N.C.-based architects Innovative Design took the school-led collection of ideas, combined it with the company’s expertise in sustainable design, and built a structure that is on track to exceed North Carolina requirements for energy and water efficiency.

“This building will bring the college a lot of recognition,” says Dechant. Officials from other schools and those in the green-building community have already expressed interest in touring the facility to see all the sustainable features, he continues. “We’re proud of it. It’s the best in the community-college system and the region.”

Sustainable Research and
Demonstration House
Funded by the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, the Sustainable Research Demonstration House has been designed and built to teach students and the community about low-impact, sustainable design. And they’re learning by building it themselves.

The house will provide data on the wood construction materials used in building the house and how those materials perform over time. Climate data and other external factors will also be collected and considered in evaluation. Meanwhile, the house will also host continuing-education courses on low-impact design methods, greening a home and energy management.
In the curriculum and the classroom, Haywood Community College is addressing the effects of the construction boom in our area, says Preston Jacobsen, sustainability analyst and director of the campus STARS program (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System). “The goal is to educate and train in a vocation-based environment a whole new generation of green-collar workers in the construction field,” he says. “Having an accessible research and demonstration house will definitely heighten interest in sustainability issues within a community that already has receptive nature.”

In addition to being a display and research model, the Research Demonstration House will also be used for community classes, social functions, guest speaker and special visitor quarters and more. With the beautiful wooded area surrounding this unique home is also a memorable first lesson: Development can be functional, gorgeous, and low impact.

Green features at HCC

  • Natural light classrooms and studio spaces
  • Strategically placed natural ventilation systems
  • 112-kilowatt, photovoltaic solar system to generate electricity
  • Solar-thermal, radiant floor heating
  • Solar-thermal absorption chiller cooling systems
  • Energy-efficient building envelope
  • LED Lighting
  • Low- and no-VOC paints, finishes and other materials
  • Cistern for rainwater collection, toilet flushing and cooling tower
  • Constructed wetland for collecting and treating stormwater runoff
  • Native plants and low-maintenance landscaping
  • Touch-screen energy-management system
  • 100-acre arboretum on campus for studying and displaying many different trees and shrubs
  • “No Idling” policy on campus
  • Model for Green among Community Colleges Nationwide
  • Recipient of second Nature Climate Leadership Award

Architect (Professional Crafts Building): Innovative Design, Raleigh
Contractor/builder: Miles-McClellan, Greensboro,
Special thanks to HCC Construction & Electrical Trade students, Haywood Heating & Cooling, Green Brothers Well Drilling, Tuscoloa masory students and many more

To learn more about Haywood Community College, its green-building curriculum, and the campus-wide sustainability initiatives, visit For direct information on campus tours for the Sustainable Research Demonstration House and Professional Crafts Building, contact Preston Jacobsen at (828) 565-4033 or email ( to arrange a visit.