WILLIAMSTOWN — Fort Bradshaw, built as a fraternity house in 1930, has been renovated completely into what now is one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the region, ready to house Williams College graduate students in the art history program, as it has since the early 1980s.
As it has in many recent projects, the college wanted to transform the grand old structure into a certified “Living Building” by using the latest, most effective technologies to make its carbon footprint as small as possible.
The house, owned by Williams College, became student housing for the art history grad students because it is adjacent to The Clark Art Institute, where the art history program is based.
After two years of construction, the $11.5 million project was completed last week and the students moved in Friday.
The three-story house has 14 bedrooms and eight bathrooms. The rooms house one student each, with one room reserved as a guest room. They are arranged in seven suites of two bedrooms and one bathroom.
On the ground floor is a kitchen and dining area in a new expansion at the back of the building. Another addition holds the elevator shaft and fire stairs.
According to Julie Sniezek, project manager for the college, the entire building was stripped to the studs and extensively insulated, and the windows were replaced with triple-glazed panes.
Renovations were designed and built to meet the Living Building Challenge Petal Certification and U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold Certification.
Sniezek said the Living Building Challenge is the most stringent building certification program so far. Administered through the International Living Future Institute, it’s organized into seven focus areas, called petals. From those, Williams has selected materials, equity and health petals for this project, meeting the highest standards.
Everything that was recovered during the demolition process, such as cabinetry, toilets and lighting fixtures, was given to used-construction supply outlets like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, she said.
Every material used in the renovation was vetted for materials on the Living Building Challenge Red List — materials that can be harmful to people or the environment through out-gassing or chemical seepage.
As a result, 66 percent of the original building structure was preserved; 90 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills and 60 percent of new products used on this project are Red List-chemical free. All of the new wood used in this building meets the Forest Stewardship Council’s Chain-of- Custody requirements.
A cutting-edge ventilation system with high rates of air filtration, flow and volume provides a healthy indoor air quality. Even the housekeeping products meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice label, with reduced volatile organic compound levels and avoidance of toxins.
This building will use less than half the energy of a typical dorm, Sniezek said.
Heating and cooling are provided through a system of 10, 300-foot-deep geothermal wells, along with roof-mounted solar panels to preheat the hot water used inside, further reducing the need for energy. All of the piping is copper, rather than the plastics-based pipes.
The building also was updated for the latest technologies, including a ceiling-mounted projector in the living room for presentations.
According to college spokesman Greg Shook, the building’s previous name, Fort Hoosac, was changed to Fort Bradshaw in 2018, when the college board approved the renovation.
“It was decided that it will be known as Fort Bradshaw in honor of donor support that allowed the renovation to be completed,” Shook said. “To most folks, it’s simply referred to as The Fort, and I imagine that tradition will continue.”