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Natural Sciences building: an environmental success

The Natural Sciences Building opened this fall after undergoing construction since Dec. 2005. Not only is the new building an advancement in eco-friendly facilities, the Mills’ science department also hopes it will call attention to the campus, especially on the study of natural sciences.

The building is a LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design) certified green building. LEED is an organization that establishes a set of criteria for constructing a “green” building, that is, an environmentally friendly design.

Chemistry professor John Brabson, the building’s staff liaison, said, “During design and construction we constantly assessed how we might achieve the largest number of the goals as possible and still stay within our budget.”

The building features photovoltaic panels on the roof, which provide 30 percent of the building’s energy supply. According to Brabson, “Photovoltaic panels utilize the energy in sunlight to elevate electrons in the semiconductor material that constitute the panel to a higher energy level.”

To conserve electricity, changes in room temperature trigger the windows to open or close, preventing unnecessary heating or cooling.

Rainwater is collected outside and is used to flush toilets. People can push one of two buttons: a full-flush or a half-flush, which uses less water.

Many parts of the building are made from recycled materials, including the wood overhang near the entrance and the rainwater collector, which previously served as an industrial vat of mayonnaise.

Students said that the environmental appeal of the building affects the community’s view of the campus. “It makes Mills look environmentally attentive and forward,” said freshwoman Ellie Whiteley.

The science department believes that the building will increase enrollment. “It will bring students here when they see what the building has to offer,” said Biology professor Helen Walter.

Chemistry professor Dr. Elisabeth Wade agreed, and said that because Mills already has a great faculty and science curriculum, “the new facility can only help with recruiting more students both to Mills and into the natural sciences.”
Some Mills students and staff said that the building is a visual inspiration. “I love the clean lines and the little art features,” said Dr. Walter.

“It’s aesthetically inspiring,” agreed Whiteley.

The building’s d‚cor includes a colored glass display and a periodic table on a wall on the second floor lobby. The main lobby features profiles of female scientists with informational displays on the walls.

Though many in the Mills community said that they are pleased with the Life Sciences building, problems still remain.
“Because all the money was spent on the building, we do not have enough lab equipment,” said freshwoman Emma Karki.

An official opening ceremony will take place on Oct. 11. It will include recognition for many of the building’s donors and contributors.

Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman, a noted female molecular biologist, will also give a public speech.