Young Harris College Campus Center Recognized by USGBC at Georgia Capitol

By Sara Teaster, Sustainability Manager

On February 3, USGBC Georgia celebrated the work of educational facilities in the state that are creating healthy and efficient learning environments. The third annual High Performance Healthy Schools Recognition Day at the Georgia Capitol hosted 200 guests representing 62 schools and districts, 10 institutes of higher education, as well as 12 community partners who are all making a difference in Georgia.

The High Performance Healthy Schools (HPHS) program was formed in 2009 to encourage healthy learning environments for all students in the state of Georgia. These efforts were spearheaded to improve energy efficiency, indoor air quality,  natural light, and to support eco-literacy. These changes were driven by a desire to increase student performance, improve student health, and to work within tight budgets.

The Rollins Campus Center, which earned a LEED Gold rating, builds on the significant commitment to sustainability underway on the Young Harris campus—marking the 5th LEED certified building on its grounds including Enotah Hall (LEED Silver) and the Recreation & Fitness Center, The Village, and The Towers (LEED Certified).


The new Rollins Campus Center and Zell and Shirley Miller Library have transformed campus life at Young Harris College. Highly anticipated, it is now recognized as the social and intellectual heart of campus. Designed to catapult the student experience into the 21st century, it combines union, dining, event, and library spaces into an innovative mix of uses within one dynamic building. The RCC has made a welcoming place for students, faculty, staff, visitors and alumni to gather together as a college community. According to President Cathy Cox: “It draws students in like a magnet—they love it and want to be there all the time!”


A geothermal exchange system of 180 wells uses the earth’s naturally constant temperature to heat and cool the building. Radiant heating and cooling elements called “chilled-beams” offer quiet comfort without fan noise or additional energy use. High-performance glass allows for expansive mountain views and ample daylight to spaces. Porch cover shades the southern sun, plus a pattern of silk-screened glass on the Library’s dramatic bay window helps reduce heat gain.

Regional materials include careful use of rustic stone and wood timbers—harvested, extracted or manufactured within 500 miles of the College—with crisp and modern detailing as a forward-looking take on local and regional approaches to building and craft along the spine of the Appalachian Trail.  In all, the building’s sustainable features have resulted in an estimated 40.5% savings in energy use over baseline expectations for a building of this type and an estimated 33.2% savings in indoor water use.


The campus has a history of sustainable building initiatives including using early geothermal systems to heat and cool a number of its residence halls—which made adding the Campus Center to its geothermal portfolio a welcome choice. YHC employs Green Cleaning procedures throughout its campus, offers parking discounts for Low Emission Vehicles, and supports a robust campus recycling program encouraging the spirit of Young Harris with each bin featuring the “Love Purple, Live Green” logo (which continues to expand on the original recycling program started in the 1980’s).

The college is a member of AASHE, and supports sustainability efforts not only in facilities management, but also in an increasingly diverse academic program that now includes a minor in Sustainability and a campus-wide focus on local Appalachian culture and ecology. Hands-on learning opportunities through the YHC Farm and the Beekeeping Institute will celebrate its 25th year this year. The school supports these efforts with a $5 Green Fee from each student per semester.

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