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Horn Hall, Williams College

Williamstown, Massachusetts

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) objectives are a major tool for developing buildings that support advanced sustainability goals and fight climate change. In developing a new dorm on the Williams College campus (the first in 40 years) LEED guidelines and certification was an integral part of contributing to the College’s goal of reducing their carbon footprint. The longevity of the building (100 years minimum) and sustainability were at the forefront. The creation of Horn Hall earned 82 points in the LEED rating system qualifying it for LEED® Platinum certification. This highly sought-after Platinum status accounts for only six percent of all LEED certifications.


In developing the building design, the overriding goals were to integrate respect for the neighborhood fabric, encourage interaction, and develop public to private layering of personal, shared, and public spaces. The focus was to create a building that balances the traditional structures of the neighborhood with the creation of a new form relevant to modern aesthetics and sustainable materials.


Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED certification is the most widely used green building rating system in the world—a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership and an international symbol of excellence. It provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. For this project, the maximum achievable points for the Innovation category, which recognizes creative application of design, technology and building features, as well as the Regional Priority Credits were awarded. Horn Hall was further recognized for high performance in all other categories—Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality.


Incorporated into the new dormitory were sustainable features including low-flow plumbing fixtures, triple glazed windows, continuous exterior insulation, rain screens, minimized air infiltration, heat recovery ventilation, dense pack interior insulation, LED light fixtures, and occupancy sensors. Photovoltaic solar panels will further reduce the building’s carbon footprint.


Aesthetically, the 25,000-square foot, three wing structure features a terra cotta exterior, which emulates the clapboard structures in the surrounding area, and dark metal panels, which allow the connections between the wings to recede visually. The gray coated copper mimics the friezes of the surrounding colonial architecture and reduces the building’s perceived height.

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