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Visual Arts Center Sculpts A Model Of Environmental Efficiency In Danbury

Luigi Marcone leads a tour through some of the environmentally sound facilities at WCSU's new Visual and Performing Arts Center. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
The new Visual and Performing Arts Center opened in September at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. Photo Credit: Western Connecticut State University
The price tag for the new Visual and Performing Arts Center was $97 million. Photo Credit: Western Connecticut State University
Visual and Performing Arts Center Photo Credit: Western Connecticut State University

DANBURY, Conn. – The new Visual and Performing Arts Center at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury was designed not only to provide a facility for quality education and arts, but also to help the environment.

The $97 million, 135,000-square-foot Visual and Performing Arts Center opened in September. The U.S. Green Buildings Council certified its Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status for its efficiency in water and energy usage.

“We are very, very green conscious on campus,” said Luigi Marcone, associate vice president for facilities at Western. He led a tour of the Visual and Performing Arts Center for the public Tuesday to highlight some of the ways that the building was designed to be efficient.

He said that because the process of building the facility took about 15 years from conceptual thought to completion, it had to be designed with efficiency in mind.

“It has to be an integrated thought process from the very beginning, from the moment you put that first spade in the ground, it has to fit in, otherwise you’ll never be successful.”

Everything from the equipment to the building materials were designed to maximize efficiency. The building runs on No. 2 heating oil because the campus is not set for natural gas and uses high-efficiency boilers, air quality and heating systems. Temperatures are controlled by a main computer system.

“We’ve got a very, very elaborate building automation system that controls thousands of different points throughout the building, everything from a standalone thermostat in a classroom or a studio, right down to the temperature controls on hot water,” Marcone said.

This allows staff to control the building’s temperatures to make sure that no energy is wasted, particularly in times when the building is not in use.

Recycling is also important in the Visual and Performing Arts Center, as well as the rest of the campus. All combustibles such as paint and rags from the art studios are compacted and disposed of properly. The school recycles 150 tons of white paper per year. It also sorts and recycles other materials, including food, which is put into a biodigester and digested on a microbial basis.

Marcone said he tries to impress upon the students the level of efficiency at which the building operates, and that it plays into the educational process.

“The students we have in the arts right now have an amazing opportunity to not only work and learn from great faculty, but they have an opportunity to see how a state-of-the-art studio works or a state-of-the-art theater works or a state-of-the-art concert hall works. All the benefits that go into it, and all the behind the scenes stuff that goes into it.”

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