By Alyssa Mancuso ’20 & Devin Marino ’19

With the opening of the zero energy Lombardo Welcome Center, Millersville University is stepping into a more sustainable future. The beautiful metal and glass building, which is the first of its kind on campus, is the University’s new front door. Located at 88 James St., prospective students and their families now begin their campus tours in the Center’s bamboo-paneled presentation room, known as the Dr. John M. Anderson Center for Environmental Sustainability, and exit onto the quad located between the main residence halls.

Contractors broke ground on the building in February 2017. At a cost of just over $7.5 million, with $1.2 million coming from Sam and Dena Lombardo, for whom the building is named, the 14,627 sq. ft. Lombardo Welcome Center is one of 10 buildings in the state of Pennsylvania aiming to be certified as zero energy. The building officially opened in February 2018.

Zero energy certification means that the building generates its own renewable energy to run its systems and devices. Most buildings pull electricity from the power grid to power lights, devices and provide heating and air conditioning, however, the Lombardo Welcome Center’s goal is to achieve this using onsite renewable energy.

The building harnesses the energy of the sun and the earth. A total of 528 solar panels on the roof generate electricity, 20 geothermal wells drilled 400 feet into the ground heat and cool the building, and several rain gardens treat storm water on-site. An additional 20 solar panels are located on the ground behind the building so visitors and MU students can view the technology up close. The building features solar glass from Spain that generates electricity, radiant floor heating in the lobby, and LED lights throughout. The building’s furniture is made from 40,000 pounds of recycled materials, and the landscape consists entirely of native plant species. Touchscreen dashboards, located in the lobby and donated by the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, provide real-time information about the building’s energy use and production, as well as orientation information for prospective students.

“Zero energy starts with energy efficiency. The Lombardo Welcome Center is about 60 percent more energy efficient than the other buildings on campus,” says MU sustainability manager Chris Steuer. “The Lombardo Welcome Center gives us a space to learn about energy-efficient technologies that we can take to other campus buildings.”

Beyond its sustainable design, the Lombardo Welcome Center is also visually striking with large glass windows that let in plenty of sunlight, open and airy architecture that invites visitors inside, and modern finishes including concrete and bamboo.

The building is home to several important University offices including Admissions, Housing and Residential Programs, University Marketing and Communications, the Office of Sustainability and the office for the Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

The Welcome Center incorporates the ancient Chinese method of orientation known as feng shui, which designs the subtle forces of nature to help individuals achieve health, happiness and success. Feng shui was used in the Lombardo Welcome Center at the request of the Lombardos, who have benefited from this practice in their personal residences and at the locations of their company, The Benecon Group, for over a decade. Feng shui consultant Melanie Lewandowski oversaw this aspect of the project.

She made many recommendations on the architecture of the Lombardo Welcome Center to promote positive energy within the space and create an aura of support and focus. This can be seen in the open and airy lobby, gentle curve of the front desk and uneven placement of the main doors, which works to keep positive energy in the building rather than flowing through the building.

Although these changes were implemented, Lewandowski noted that there were still areas of the building that had a depleting influence instead of a positive one. To remedy this, gold coins were placed in areas where negative or disruptive influences were identified in an effort to improve overall energy.

The University also obtained special permission to change the address of the building from 45 James St. to 88 James St.

“The number is very auspicious in feng shui,” said Lewandowski. “The shape of the number is similar to the infinity symbol, a continuous uninterrupted flow. This stimulates financial abundance and prosperity. The double 8 resonates to double happiness. The uplifting shape of 8 has a subliminal influence for people as they write the number, and also as they see it in physical form.”

“The Lombardo Welcome Center serves as the flagship building for sustainability on campus and will provide a unique experience for all who visit,” says Steuer. “The University is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. This building encapsulates those aspirations in form and in function.”

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