Renovated Bretske Hall boosts UTC sustainability, gets LEED certification

Renovated Bretske Hall boosts UTC sustainability, gets LEED certification

August 28th, 2013 by Jeff LaFave in Local Regional News

UTC student Shelby Turner cleans up newly opened studio space after a painting class at Bretske Hall at UTC on Tuesdayn. The building was recently renovated, enhancing the LEED environmental standards and aesthetic features of the structure.

Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press.


• Founded in 1947 as a cafeteria

• Housed geology department before recent renovations

• Construction: April 2012 to Aug. 19

• Cost: $2.14 million

Source: UTC

It's a day one art lesson: Combining blue and yellow makes "green."

Bretske Hall, UTC's former cafeteria and lab space, has been transformed into an environmentally sound art space. After a $2.14 million renovation, the brick box is now the university's prototype for campus sustainability.

"UTC has made a commitment to be environmentally aware, to lower our campus footprint and provide a healthy environment for our faculty and staff," Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Darger said.

Bretske is the first UTC building to be LEED-certified, or verified that the facility meets national third-party sustainability standards like air quality and cost efficiency. Points are awarded for using low-emitting painting, sealing and building products.

Darger said the engineering building and $48 million library are next on UTC's list for LEED certification, and the verification process should be underway before the library's spring 2014 opening.

If Bretske represents how far UTC's future sustainability efforts will go, those upcoming projects will be no small task. The project turned out to be a "99 percent" reconstruction. Bretske now boasts three different sorts of electric light, a new elevator and ADA-compliant ramps, and a wide-open, minimalist aesthetic.

"People who knew this space are shocked by how unfamiliar it looks," said art department head Ron Buffington.

Bretske's main bragging point is the north wall's massive new windows, which open the two painting studios for natural sunlight. The university can ease power usage while artists thrive on a "jaw-dropping" view of campus.

The constant light source -- yet never too bright -- is "optimal" for painters.

After a two-week trial Buffington said his students absolutely love the new digs.

"I see our students bouncing through the halls," Buffington said. "They're so happy to have this space on their own at all, let alone such an inspiring space."

Buffington says the move in has been frenetic. His most common email subject line has been "Bretske Madness," and he is trying to fine-tune the building to be as dynamic as the minds that use it.

The bottom-floor art space is meant for versatility. Tiny booths give independent artists the ability to develop and fine-tune a studio installation next to the sun. The rest of the plain white chamber, like tables and chairs, is on caster wheels, and can be moved around to create an entirely new classroom setting within 10-minute passing periods.

Christina Vogel, a UTC assistant professor of painting and drawing, instructs two sections of painting on the top floor. Her classroom's appreciation is as sunny as the outside view.

"Everyone is so jealous of this space," she said.

As part of their curriculum, art students will present information on five topic areas of the LEED certification. They will link their art experiences with sustainability goals such as water efficiency and environmental quality through a design project.

"Our students bring inspiration," Buffington said. "And we try to cultivate that."

Contact Jeff LeFave at or 423-757-6592.