Blue ribbon-cutting officially opens 'green' residence hall
UNC Asheville's newest, 'greenest' building, Overlook Hall, was officially dedicated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 27. Overlook Hall is home to some 300 students, and its café, the Down Under, serves students from throughout the campus.
Overlook Hall resident, junior Harry Samuels, joined Chancellor Anne Ponder in holding the ceremonial scissors. Samuels, who serves as executive of sustainability for the Student Government Association (SGA), spoke of his excitement about the building's cutting-edge sustainability features. "From the motion-sensing lighting technology in each of the suites, to the new geothermal field that will supply heating and cooling to Overlook and the six adjacent residence halls, to the solar-heated hot water systems that other residence halls will share, Overlook Hall exemplifies how sustainability efforts can benefit the entire community."
"The opening of Overlook Hall ushers in a new era at UNC Asheville in which the largest percentage and number of students now live on campus," said Board Chair Cissie Stevens. "This year, 1274 students, more than 40 percent of all full-time degree-seeking students, now live on campus. We now surpass the average among public universities." Trustee Bruce Peterson noted that, "From our own, as well as national research, we know how important living on campus can be for student success."
I love the fact that I can do so many things in my residence hall. My living space is here. If I’m hungry, I can pop down to the Down Under. And if there’s a soccer game, I’ve got the best view from the fifth floor lounge.” – Overlook Hall resident
The dedication ceremony served as an opportunity to recognize the many members of the university and in the community who participated in the planning, design, financing and construction of Overlook Hall. Many of the individuals involved attended the ceremony and took guided tours of the building to see the fruit of their labor.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Bill Haggard spoke of the valuable contribution SGA presidents and other students made during the multi-year planning and construction process. "You'd expect these students to advocate for amenities in the building, which they did," said Haggard, "but they were most zealous in their advocacy for the sustainability features that make this project a real gem."
Haggard said he asked Overlook's residents for feedback on their living experience so far, and has received comments like these: "A lot of times you hear about a building being built with sustainability in mind, but with Overlook, you can see it all around you both inside and outside ... I can be where the action is by hanging out in the Down Under or in any of the lounges or I have privacy in my room. It's alive here, but not so alive that I can't study ... When the year started, a few of us began having a pot-luck one night a week in one of the kitchens. Because the kitchen area is so open, several people have seen what we're doing and have now joined in ... And if there's a soccer game, I've got the best view from the fifth floor lounge."
While Overlook Hall does offer its residents sweeping vistas, its name is also tied to the university's history. Chancellor Ponder noted that from 1949-1961, Asheville-Biltmore College, which became UNC Asheville, was housed in Overlook Castle atop Sunset Mountain. In order to make acquiring the castle affordable for the college, "Evelyn Seely, daughter of noted businessman E.W. Grove, sold her family's mansion far under market value," said Ponder. "Thus, it seems only fitting to honor one of our important former homes by linking it to this important new home for students."