Graves Hall

Currently, Graves Hall is still under construction. It will be ready for freshmen to move in by fall. 

Graves Hall, the new freshmen residence building, will be the first building in the country to use Virtu-HOT, a solar water heating system from ELM Companies. 

The new system is one attribute of the residence hall that will open in the fall and house up to 400 students. 

According to Creighton’s Director of Sustainability Andrew Baruth, Ph.D., ELM, which is owned by the Graves family, recently purchased exclusive rights to Virtu-HOT in the United States from the U.K.-based company Naked Energy. 

The Virtu-HOT system will use solar power to heat all of the water in the building.  

Creighton President the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, S.J., said he believes the product will be beneficial for multiple reasons.  

“Not only will the product allow us to care for our common home, but it is also far more efficient to use and maintain,” Hendrickson said in an email.  

Creighton gets electricity from Omaha Public Power District, which is working towards their goal to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to the Nebraska Public Media website. Baruth said that the steam and chilled water production on campus is not sourced from a place with similar goals. 

“By going this route to use solar hot water, which I think for some feels a little weird, it actually is a bigger cut into our greenhouse gas emissions for a residence hall where people will use a lot of hot water,” Baruth said. “And so it actually ends up being a much bigger cut into our greenhouse gas emissions over doing something like a solar electric project.”    

Another way Baruth said that Creighton is working to make Graves more sustainable is by constructing it primarily from wood rather than steel and concrete, because wood is a good carbon sink and a material that takes less energy.  

Graves will also have a courtyard to promote outdoor activities, and according to Baruth, this was intentional because there is not a lot of green space on campus.  

Additionally, Hendrickson said in his email that the courtyard area will “allow students the opportunity to establish important connections with their peers and build a sense of community.”  

The suite-style dorm rooms in Graves were also designed to maintain community. 

“Creighton is known for its strong sense of community, which is nurtured by our Jesuit culture, our faculty and staff, the architecture of our campus and so much more. It also includes how we live together on this campus,” Hendrickson said. “Graves is more in-line with housing models preferred by younger students, and lets us continue offering the programs and structures that facilitate the kind of community they celebrate.”  

While Graves will be the only campus building with Virtu-HOT, Baruth said that other sustainability measures will include a 78-kilowatt solar array at the new CL and Rachel Werner Center for Health Sciences Education, which will open in the fall, and the new Jesuit residence hall was primarily wood constructed. The solar panels that were removed from campus are also being redeployed at the Creighton University Retreat Center where they can be used more efficiently.  

Additionally, Baruth said Creighton is systematically going through all campus buildings that will continue to be used for more than the next five years to implement new building management software. It will be incorporated with 25Live, the software used to book room space on campus, to make the buildings “smart.” When nothing is scheduled in a room for several hours, the HVAC system will be turned off and if nothing is planned for three days it will go to a weekend setting. This is intended to minimize energy usage.   

Currently, there are no plans to implement Virtu-HOT in any other residence halls or campus buildings.  

“It’s a little bit more tricky to add it after the fact,” Baruth said. “With any new building going up, this is always the conversation that gets had. What can we add to it to try to make it as sustainable as fiscally responsible? It’s hard to do it on older infrastructure, so as infrastructure swaps over I think we’ll see more of this type of thing.” 

Creighton plans to continue building new infrastructure. Hendrickson said that Creighton intends to construct more residence halls, although these plans have not been finalized.  

“In our campus master planning work, new halls will likely be built near and around Graves, in what has become the central part of Creighton’s campus, and east of Creighton’s historic core,” Hendrickson said. “We have not yet determined when to build a new hall, and which of our current halls we would sunset.”

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