Campus Building Built Green

The single overriding architectural vision behind Mississippi State University’s new Landscape Architecture Building, is that it practices exactly what the curriculum inside will be teaching. It embodies the school’s landscape architecture faculty members’ view that landscapes and structures built by humans can and should operate like natural systems – with no wasted energy.

Starkville, Mississippi – May 1, 2003 [] “We wanted a facility that demonstrated to both the members of the campus community and visitors from around the world how we are in harmony with natural ecological systems,” said professor Pete Melby, the faculty planning committee chair. Melby said the landscape architecture faculty team worked closely with lead architects Dale and Associates of Jackson, as well as state Bureau of Buildings officials, to bring the concepts to reality. The recent completion of a 15 kW solar PV array adds one of the finishing touches on the building’s sustainable design and brings the number of PV arrays that are part of Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Renewable Energy Green Power Switch program to 15 separate arrays. The 82 feet long and 18 feet 8 inches wide PV array is built as a canopy structure between the Landscape Architecture Facility and the Ammerman-Hearnsburger Building and will provide cover for the walkway between the buildings. SunWize technologies designed and installed the array which is made up of 104, Sanyo HIT modules, each with a maximum system operating voltage of 600V DC. A 15 kW AC Xantrex PV15208 inverter with a Square D 208/208 transformer converts the DC PV array input power into utility-compatible 208 VAC, 60 Hz, 3-phase power. Electricity generated by the modules goes into the Starkville Electric System, which is the local distributor in Mississippi that offers TVA’s Green Power Switch to their customers. Although the 15 kW of solar electricity doesn’t make a tremendous impact on the overall electric grid, it does add to the gradual and rising momentum of TVA’s Green Power Switch distribution, which has since added 12 local power companies in east Tennessee and north Georgia. The newly opened complex involves three brick-façade buildings that provide space for classrooms and studios accommodating about 250 faculty and students, as well as faculty and administrative offices, for the department’s landscape architecture and landscape contracting curricula. “The buildings are sited so that they make full use of natural daylight,” Melby said. “No room in the buildings would have inadequate lighting, even if the power went out.” Other energy-reducing features include geothermal ground-source heating and cooling which is expected to reduce the utility bills by as much as 50 percent. The large building overhangs will keep the building 8-10 degrees cooler in the summer, and wall and roof designs are such that summer temperatures won’t penetrate the building. Taking energy conservation a step further, the functioning windows will enable the university to turn off heating and cooling sources during the milder months and have only open windows for necessary ventilation. Also inside the structures, concrete floors assure there are no emissions of volatile organic compounds. In places requiring something other than concrete, the design team chose floor coverings of either recycled rubber tire or natural soybean-based materials. “There will be producing vegetable gardens, prairie grass and themed gardens such as a butterfly garden and a perennials garden,” Melby said. “The goal here will be to utilize the grounds as both a teaching tool and visitor attraction.” As for parking lots, a separate plan was developed to remove wastewater from the site, including byproducts left from automobiles in adjacent parking lots. Wetland treatment cells, indoor recycling of gray water, the use of cisterns for harvesting water, and even natural treatment of sewage are among other planned water-conserving measures. “All of the facility’s features contribute to our desire to dramatically reduce energy needs and to use less water pumped from dwindling underground reserves,” Melby said. Jesse Broehl can be reached at
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