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Sense of Place

Enotah Hall at Young Harris College

Filling a housing need, quickly but with style
University Business, Apr 2010

Young Harris College (Ga.) needed more housing, and fast. This project had to move forward ahead of even a new campus master plan.

FUNCTION: A two hundred-bed residence hall with 50 suites

PROBLEM: When President Cathy Cox was hired in 2007, she was given the challenge of converting the college to four-year status, which would mean significant enrollment growth. "To grow, first and foremost we needed to have residence hall capacity, and we were already at our maximum capacity," she says. A new campus master plan got underway, but a dorm would have to be built simultaneously. In fact, during construction of Enotah Hall in 2008, eight trailers had to be used to house an overflow of students.

Inside, students gather in the bright and open lobby, and can often be found playing the grand piano.

Officials had wasted no time starting the project, but care was taken to design a facility that met student and institutional needs and took advantage of expansive views. "We're in the valley surrounded by the tallest mountains in North Georgia," says Cox. One of her pet peeves was a lack of views from inside campus buildings.

SOLUTION: Despite the master plan still being in the works, the design team at Lord, Aeck & Sargent was given a general building site on the campus lawn, explains President Joe Greco. The dorm would be the last building constructed on this central space, and the team created a highly visible porch -- an "architectural event," says Greco -- to connect the two residential wings and draw attention. The brick exterior serves as "a unifying element among an otherwise diverse collection of buildings," says project manager Jackson Kane. Large expanses of glass provide mountain views. A rooftop terrace, upper floor gathering spaces, and smaller study sunrooms all have mountain vistas. An amphitheatre takes advantage of an exterior slope. "Now we have this great performance space for theater, lectures, classes, and study groups," says Cox.

YHC's strong music programs influenced the decision to include four music practice rooms. The 24-hour, soundproof rooms "are wildly popular" among music and musical theater students, Cox shares. "Not having to hike across campus late at night is a real draw for students." She has also noticed, while walking her dog at night, how the use of glass in front of Enotah "adds this diffused kind of light to the central campus lawn and plaza area."

As for the project adding up, officials invested in building green. The extra $1 million or so in costs allowed Enotah to have features such as geothermal heat and air systems, achieved by digging 72 wells around the building, Cox says. An energy recovery unit reduces outside and inside air temperature differences. In addition, the building was constructed with regional and recycled materials. Enotah recently achieved a LEED Silver designation. Next up for YHC is a student recreation center near the new hall, which Cox says should also qualify for LEED certification.

COST: $15.5 million (about $1 million under budget, according to Cox)

COMPLETED: Fall 2009

ARCHITECT: Lord, Aeck & Sargent of Atlanta