Though the sounds of bricklaying and last minute construction cleanup still ring out on Oxford College's tranquil campus, in a few days, they'll be replaced by the hum of excited freshmen and returning sophomores.
About half the students will be moving into Oxford's shiny, new $28 million residence hall - a crown jewel in Oxford's campus revitalization, according to school officials.
Builders have been working full tilt since breaking ground in May in order to have the dormitory finished and ready for students by August.
"It's very exciting," said Dean Stephen Bowen, who described the building as a comfortable place for students with lots of light. "It's the first major building in the renaissance of Oxford College."
The new 350-bed residence hall, which would be the first LEED (Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design) certified building in Newton County, has a number of innovations, according to Erik Oliver, special assistant for strategic initiatives at Oxford.
The building's energy efficiency exceeds standards by 26 percent, said Oliver. In addition to the building being extremely well insulated, the windows are coated with a special material that lets light in but keeps heat out. Motion sensors turn lights off when students exit a room. The light fixtures and heating and cooling systems are the most efficient available, he said, and the ultra low-flow taps, showerheads and toilets mean the building uses a third less water than other buildings of similar size.
Being green also extended to the building process.
Local building materials and labor were used as much as possible to reduce fuel emissions and to stimulate the local and regional economy, said Oliver. The construction company also tried to select supplies that contained as much recycled material as possible and used the least harmful chemicals and materials for the safety of the construction crew and students alike. Workers separated and recycled waste materials during construction.
It's the intentional considerations such as that which recently earned Emory University a distinguished score on the Princeton Review's 2008 "Green Honor Roll."
Some of the most noticeable innovations are also, deliberately, some of the most aesthetically pleasing, such as a Feng Shui-like rainwater collection system in the hall's inner courtyard designed by Landscape Architect Jay Wansley of ECOS Environmental Design.
"Everyone is rethinking the way we're doing things," said Wansley, an Oxford alum. "We're trying mimic more of the natural processes in place."
The system harvests rainwater from the roof, diverting it to a series of basins and filters into an underground 20,000-gallon cistern where the water will be stored for irrigation of campus landscape.
"There's a very decorative and neat and interactive way that it occurs," Wansley said. "We've basically brought to surface what is usually hidden away and brought it to consciousness."
The building's articulated roofs and stacked floors also minimized the building's footprint and made it seem less imposing while evoking a modern-day Prairie style.
Though the building is rife with innovations, the residence hall's design is very traditional in some ways. Housing two students per room on hallways with common bathroom and kitchen areas is designed to encourage a sense of community.
"Even though this is a new building, we want the same basic experience for all of our students," Bowen said. "It is designed in a way the students advised us they strongly preferred."
The residence hall will also house a student health center, student counseling center and a demonstration kitchen to be used by the culinary club.
Bowen described the residence hall as the first of three buildings to be built as part of Oxford's "renaissance."
"The core of what defines Oxford is not changing but we're really being much more bold in the energy we're putting into creating the Oxford experience for students," he said.
The school is trying to raise funds for two more new buildings - the science building and the library and information technology building, of which Emory University has pledged to pay half. Oxford is kicking off a $40 million capital campaign this fall as part of a wider Emory University capital campaign, said Bowen.
The two older residence halls - East and Branham Halls - will be used for temporary office space and eventually leveled for the new science building.
Freshmen begin moving in on Aug. 20, and 21 and sophomores will arrive a few days later.