Campus / News / May 1, 2019

Building possible at Green Oaks


Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Katie Adelsberger pushes her daughter, Linnea, on a swing at Shurr Hall at Green Oaks. Director of Green Oaks Stuart Allison and Director of Campus Sustainaiblity Debbie Steinberg are working with a design team to plan a possible renovation or new building at Green Oaks. (Rafael Cho/TKS)

While Green Oaks Term alumni love Schurr Hall, the old barn-turned-living-space, they agree that it needs some renovations. Juniors Maggie Decker and Katerina Sasieta reminisced about fond memories attached to Schurr Hall, but also recalled memories of mice, ants and holes in the walls.

“I love Schurr Hall in its current state; it’s a beautiful disaster of a house,” Decker said. “But I would love to see Green Oaks be a space that more people can use and access.”

Director of the Green Oaks Biological Field Station Stuart Allison and Director of Campus Sustainability Debbie Steinberg are working with an outside design team to come up with floor plans for a new building at Green Oaks. Allison referred to the current living space as rustic and primitive, and Steinberg mentioned that Schurr Hall was on the brink of becoming unsafe.

Sasieta and Decker count cooking and eating with their groups among their favorite memories of Green Oaks Term. Sasieta has a love for cooking and was brought to tears when she saw the kitchen that was available to the students in Schurr.

“I was so excited to be there and to be cooking, and there was just so much character in the space,” Sasieta said.

Allison and Steinberg are concerned about Schurr Hall’s limited accessibility. Currently, there is a step to get inside of the building and into some of the rooms. The only way to the second floor is up a flight of stairs.

The building doesn’t have a heating system so it’s only usable in the spring and summer. Allison and Steinberg’s ideas currently include a more modern building with more beds.

Shurr Hall at Green Oaks is being considered for possible renovation and replacement. If building does happen, it will be funded by external donations rather than be paid for by the college from existing funds. (Rafael Cho/TKS)

They want the building to be usable year-round and available for a wider range of students, faculty and alumni.

“That’s sort of the goal is to get to something that would be more attractive to a wide variety of users,” Allison said.

Despite the fond memories attached to the current Schurr Hall building, renovations could end up being more costly than building a new living space.

Steinberg explained that with the plan to make the new building more sustainable, retrofitting the current building could cost 20-30 percent more.

Steinberg and Allison had considered building the new living space near the lake, but Green Oaks Term alumni felt it would be better to keep the new living space in the same area as Schurr Hall. This building would hold up to 25 students, while the current house can hold up to 12 students and two PA’s.

Steinberg hopes they can make the new building a net zero living space. This means that the new building would create all of the energy it used. Nothing is set in stone yet, and the types of renewable energy sources that can be used will largely depend on the location and orientation of the building. Steinberg mentioned solar, wind and geothermal energies as possibilities.

She said that green solutions can be as simple as awnings over the windows to block out sunlight in the summer, keeping spaces cooler. Steinberg is hopeful that a net zero building could offer students the chance to learn about renewable energy and see how it works on site.

“The potential is really exciting to have campus as a living laboratory and being able to learn from the building as much as you’re learning in the building,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg and Allison stressed that any construction at Green Oaks is most likely a few years out if it happens at all. They are early on in the design process. Allison hopes that plans for the new building will be ready at the end of spring, but even with plans in place, funding isn’t guaranteed.

Steinberg explained that Knox College will not be funding this project. That means that she and Allison will need to find all of their funding from external sources, such as donations Neither Steinberg nor Allison currently have an estimate of how much the project could cost.

Sasieta and Decker support the possibility of construction at Green Oaks. While Schurr Hall holds good memories for them, they acknowledge the need for improvements and hope that a new building will bring more people to Green Oaks.

“It’s bittersweet,” Decker said. “You have to say goodbye to the old to have this new opportunity.”

Sarah Eitel

Tags:  biology environmental studies Green Oaks green oaks term renovation

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