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Oberlin College Kahn Hall

Oberlin College
Oberlin, OH
52,400 SF
August 2010
LEED Silver
Higher Education Residential Life Architecture Interiors Planning Sustainability

When Oberlin College desired its first new residence hall in 50 years, it set its sights on the future, establishing high standards for sustainable design and education. Part of the first-year residential experience, Kahn Hall creates a total sustainability living-learning environment for 150 students and several faculty members, which earned LEED Silver certification.


The living-learning community is divided into five houses of 30 students each, with a light filled social/dining “hub” located at the house entry and separate study “cove” at the quiet end of the wing. The “corridor” of each house is flared, allowing it to become an extension of the “hub” and thereby encourage mixing and meeting.

The building creates two principal exterior spaces--a “front” yard with a welcoming porch and entry connecting to the interior stair hall, and a “back” yard for informal use and recreation supported by a small covered porch off of the all-house kitchen and movie room. An architectural language of house-scaled masses, “dormers,” natural ventilation “chimneys”, and gable-like roof frames supporting PV arrays, is used to tame the scale of the building as it abuts the individual residences to the north even as it maintains the continuity of a traditional American street.

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Individual resident controls include operable windows with interlocks to heating/cooling, flow-through chimney ventilation, and multiple lighting levels. Informational displays let residents track progress. Students living in Kahn Hall pledge sustainability as part of their everyday lives, by conserving water and energy, reducing waist, and not bringing cars to campus.

  • AIA CT Honor Award, Built Category, 2012
  • Sierra Club Cool Schools for Campus Sustainability, 2010