Keene State College prides itself on its sustainability features throughout campus, including the biggest project of them all, the Technology Design and Safety (TDS) Center.

On the KSC website,, according to Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH), the TDS Center makes Keene State College the third largest producer of solar energy.

Associate Professor in Architecture, Bart Sapeta said, “There are some special features, but I think the most important part is the process that we went through. It was a collaborative process with all the different constituents in the building. We worked with students, with faculty, with staff. We had the Vice President for Building in Finance…along with a Dean of Professional Studies.”

Sapeta said they went through a process with design architects and really listened to everybody who was involved in working in the building. He said it was very important to have everyone’s input as well as for the architects to respond to those comments.

In addition, Vice President for Finance and Planning Jay Kahn, said the goals were to create a teaching environment that would demonstrate  the sustainability values of the academic programs in the TDS center (architecture, product design, sustainable product design and innovation and safety studies) and to create synergies-opportunities for integrating the three programs.

For example, he said the space before was limited and in addition the programs were separated in two smaller buildings.

He added the third factor was to create what he called a, “wow factor.” He described, “Something that would energize the program, but also create an interest around the campus in what these programs provide academically.”

Sapeta also clarified, “The building is fully operational on electric power. There are no other fossil fuels that are included in powering the building.”

Sapeta said the sustainability features focused on what is important to the students, faculty and the overall college.

The biggest sustainable feature that most can see is the solar array roof. This doesn’t affect people directly in the building, but Sapeta said what it does is create additional electricity for the building.

Kahn said the solar array roof was not part of the original project. He stated they sought for additional funds from private gifts.

“Those gifts came in a variety of forms. They came from Public Service of New Hampshire, and from companies that hire the graduates of TDS programs. There was a grant from the public utilities commission in the state of New Hampshire, as well as private contributions,” Kahn explained.

He said KSC raised enough money to go forward with the instillation of half of the solar array that the roof could handle. He said the design for the roof was done by the Architerra Inc., located in Boston, as well as the Rist-Frost Shumway Engineering, located in Laconia N.H.  He added the modeling of energy was made by a firm called Atelier Ten.

File Photo / Nick Sonsini: Above is the Technology Design and Safety Center, the second LEED rated building on Keene State College campus.

File Photo / Nick Sonsini:
Above is the Technology Design and Safety Center, the second LEED rated building on Keene State College campus.

Sapeta explained the traditional process for making a new building. He said the college hires an architecture firm for the design of the building, however before hiring someone for design, they go through a master planning process. In that master planning process the college identifies future buildings and improvements that need to be made. He continued after that there is a pre-design phase, where you really try to discover the nature of what that building should be.

Sapeta focused on the design and said, “The features that are directly affecting students, are for example, an abundance of daylight in the space. So if you are working here you really feel like you’re connected to the outside. The architects very carefully placed the openings in the windows throughout the entire building.”

He said the lighting is well controlled so there is not too much direct daylight coming in.

He added, “It was a very good spot for the building because it’s oriented on the east, west access. So we have the self-exposure that is helping us gain enough daylight and then solar access as well as heat gain in the winter. And we have shading devices on the outside of the building that are helping with screening the sun entering the building in the summer. So there is no heat gain in the summer, but there is heat gain in the winter when the sun is low. So that’s kind of simple in a way, but very affective.”

Kahn explained the building was constructed as a very airtight building. Another feature he mentioned was the TDS Center uses triple pane windows. There are electronic window operators that allow faculty to preprogram opening and closing of the windows. As Sapeta also said, Kahn explained this way they can take advantage of nighttime cooling to bring the temperature of the building down.

He added in the cooler hours of the day, it’s programed to bring the temperature down, by closing the windows and not operating the air conditioning.

“Our purpose behind introducing these features wasn’t to go chasing an award. The purpose was to provide examples of energy saving values and ideas and to introduce the technology and means,” Kahn affirmed.

Another feature in the TDS Center is it has a lot of recycled content, such as the floor. Rather than using sand, the building used fly ashes giving it that darker cement color he said. He added the ceiling is a recycled cedar.

“It [TDS Center] uses an air sourced heat pump, which allows us to recycle what heat is being exhausted from the building and preheat outside air before it gets conditioned by the electric heaters in the building. There are occupancy sensors; one to control lights, and the other to measure CO2,” Kahn said.

Aside from its sustainability features, Kahn said, KSC is designated by the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as the regional trainer throughout New England.

There are 24 institutions designated as regional training centers around the country, Keene State College is the single designated trainer for New England according to Kahn.

Sapeta also said he gives tours of the TDS Center often to parents, students and members of the community. He said there are a number of people hosting one every week. The convenience of the flexible hub spaces are used to host events sometimes he said. As well as a number of organizations that use those areas, such as USGBC, for example, held their monthly meetings at the TDS Center Sapeta said. He added it is a very active space.

David Kahn, Jay Kahn’s son, said he spends almost everyday in the TDS Center. He is continuing his education at KSC as a Speedy Major.

Speedy stands for Sustainable Product Design and Innovation, he said he doesn’t know if there is a actual program with the same name anywhere else in the country.

David Kahn said, “It’s kind of an overview of what you would see in an industrial design or product design program. So you learn things like computerized software, either to create models or blueprints.”

David Kahn said about the TDS, “It’s a really nice building. Obviously they put a lot of thought and money into it. And it has a lot of open space, which can be really nice. I think in some ways, depending on the department, it could be out grown.”

He said for example, there is a total limit on computer usage right now. He added the Speedy Department is growing dramatically and unfortunately the computers they use are also used for class.

He also mentioned TDS Center has rapid prototyping machines. He said students can create an image in SolidWorks and after saving it a certain way, the machine will actually print that creation in a plastic form.

“The three-D printers, rapid prototypers, [it has] various names. It’s pretty cool, you know, especially sometimes you just need to have a tangible, you know? Especially in this major chances are, that if you’re in this major, you’re a hands on learner or visual learner,” David Kahn said.

He said everything Speedy majors do is really hands on and the programs can be extremely foreign to some. He said professors and a lot of collaboration between students is crucial. “As much as you want to do work at home, you have to be here, because you need to bounce and idea off of someone.”

Another member who spends a lot of time in the building is Sapeta, he said his classes are taught in the TDS Center.

He said the courses mainly focus on design in architecture program. Sapeta said a variety of majors are taking advantage of the services provided by the TDS.

“There are nursing students, a microbiology lab, chemistry lab, biodiesel lab and there is a workshop downstairs and product design students have a huge workshop that they use,” Sapeta mentioned.

From a sustainability standpoint he said he believes they are really helping the facility be a healthy facility. “Everybody feels well and is excited about working here,” he added.

On the other hand, he mentioned there are always improvements that the college could make. “Technologies changing, users are changing, buildings are always evolving,” he added.

However Sapeta said he thinks the college accomplished the location of the building and making people feel like the building fit the campus enough to be apart of Keene State College.

“I think it’s resembling the campus enough, at the same time looking into the future enough. So fifty years from now somebody is going to be looking at it and still feeling it fits the campus,” he said.

He stated the TDS Center is the second LEED rated building on campus. Pondside 3 is rated silver he said. He also stated, “The next building that we will build will be the VMAC Center or there’s talk about a Student Success Center. I think those will be even better than this building [TDS Center].”

Jay Kahn said KSC has a sustainability goal to achieve standards on campus, but not at the level, which they achieved in the TDS Center.

“That was going to be a very good building, that became LEED Platinum, and the first LEED Platinum building in the University System of New Hampshire, because it had an on-site energy source.”

In addition to classes and tours at the TDS Center, the New Hampshire American Institute of Architects meeting will take place at the TDS Center on May 1. Kahn said it is also the day senior projects are being presented, so the building will be quite active. As he has watched the campus expand he said every building project at KSC introduced an opportunity to do something unique that carries out the values of the program.

He said the David F. Putnam Science Center was an opportunity to introduce some energy saving ideas and efficient operations in a building that was very intensive with lab use. He added the Zorn Dining Commons was an opportunity to introduce natural light in some very creative ways. “The TDS Center presented new opportunities and working with the faculty as well as a creative design team that had experience with high efficiency buildings, we were able to expand and introduce new elements into this facility that we have not tried previously,” Kahn said.


Bethany Ricciardi can be contacted at

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