Carlow University is embarking on the first project of their 2014 Master Plan and first major construction project in almost a decade. The goals of the new University Commons are to transform the existing 81,000 GSF Grace Library into a new University Commons and consolidate campus wide student life and academic support facilities. Library facilities are to be updated to a Learning Commons providing greater access to digital learning and information. It will be the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building on campus.

The primary goals for the University Commons are to enhance academic achievement and student life. The present library building will be transformed into a new Learning Commons and expanded McGinley Center which will house the Center for Digital Learning and Innovation, the Hopkins Communication Lab, the Center for Academic Success, and the Massey Computer Lab. These departments provide a full array of individual student and faculty learning opportunities. The Library will consolidate the library collection and provide greater access to digital information and student collaboration.

The University Commons also addresses the University's lack of a recognizable central place for student life. To enrich the campus experience, the University Commons will house student clubs, student government, career development, campus ministry, and an open atrium to function as the campus "living room." The new 'hub' will also include an expanded café, bookstore, and mail center. This transformative building will provide a new environment and opportunities for academic and social interaction supporting student engagement.

Carlow University has a goal to establish new campus standards of environmental and energy efficiency. The goal for this particular project is to achieve a 2009 LEED for New Construction and Major Renovation Certified Performance Level. The LEED components in the building will feature the following:

  1. Sustainable Site Design:  Renovate an existing building within the same footprint thus reducing disturbance of landscape and site. Preferred parking spaces are designated for high efficiency vehicles. Public transportation is readily available adjacent to the campus entry.

  2. Energy Efficiency:  Energy usage is reduced by 19%; enhanced refrigerant management practices are in place; new windows with solar shades and 'electronically tintable glass' on two levels provide sun control and solar heat gain allowing natural light to penetrate the building. 

  3. Water Efficiency:  Plumbing fixtures were selected to reduce water consumption. 

  4. Materials and Resources:  Recycling receptacles are placed throughout the building to encourage recycling. Roughly 75% of construction waste was diverted from landfills and recycled or reused. Most materials used in construction were manufactured locally — reducing the carbon footprint by eliminating distant shipping. Ventilation was increased by 30% for enhanced indoor air quality. Materials used within the building contain a minimum of 10% recycled materials.

  5. Indoor Air Quality:  The University Center is a smoke free building. Use of low VOC materials, covering ductwork during construction and the indoor chemical and pollutant source control add to the improved indoor environmental quality. Individual controls for lighting and thermal systems provide more precise control for rooms and work spaces. 

  6. Innovation in Design:  The University Commons engages in a 'Green Maintenance' program that recycles waste from the building, uses environmentally safe cleaning products and practices, and environmentally safe landscape practices. The building will be used as a teaching tool to educate visitors and students to sustainable design and the benefits to health and well-being of occupants. The south-facing façade will have electronically tintable glass that will cut down on solar heat gain during peak sun exposure, eliminating window treatments while maintaining a view.