Yellow Springs is as Yellow Springs does

New Antioch College Wellness Center goes green

By Katie Christoff

Photo: The newly renovated Wellness Center offers fitness classes such as yoga, pilates and Zumba; photo: Carly Short

Yellow Springs just became a lot greener.

Antioch College, a private liberal arts college in Yellow Springs, opened a newly renovated and sustainable Wellness Center in September. The Wellness Center was built to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) requirements, becoming one of the first buildings in the campus-wide initiative to undergo renovations to increase sustainability. Antioch’s plan is to be among the first colleges in America fueled almost exclusively by alternative energy, and it hopes to do so by 2018.

The 44,000-square-foot Wellness Center includes an indoor swimming pool, studio spaces for group classes and a fitness room fully equipped with new cardio equipment, weights and strength-training machines.

“The community now views us as the leader in this town as far as implementing energy strategies,” Reggie Stratton, physical plant director at Antioch College, said. “So we’re kind of leading the way in setting the example for Yellow Springs and for other colleges and universities.”

Antioch’s new Wellness Center is leading the way in a place that has already made sustainability a large priority. “The village has always been progressive in its thinking about energy,” Stratton said of Yellow Springs. “It fits very well with our philosophies.”

This renovation has been in the works since 2011, according to Stratton, and construction took a year and a half to complete.

“Mark Roosevelt, our president, realized right away that we don’t have the amenities or facilities that would attract students,” Stratton said. “He wanted to get this on the high priority list right away, not only for our students and recruitment, but also for the community. It was put on the list of the first few buildings we wanted to renovate, had to renovate.”

The renovation was also made a large priority because Antioch’s Wellness Center is the only workout facility in Yellow Springs.

“The village has used this facility forever, and, when it shut down, they no longer had a pool to go to or anywhere to work out,” Stratton said. “Anyone who wanted to work out had to travel to Fairborn or Springfield or Xenia to find gyms. There just wasn’t anything in Yellow Springs.”

Anyone in the Yellow Springs community and beyond can use the Wellness Center. It is free for students at Antioch College and offers a variety of memberships and day passes for other guests.

“This is now the umbrella of fitness and health in Yellow Springs and, also, the bridge between the college and the community,” Monica Hasek, director of the Wellness Center, said. “This is really what we envisioned.”

Making the building entirely sustainable and obtaining LEED certification was a large and costly project, Stratton said. In order to meet LEED standards for certification, everything had to be low in volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, according to Stratton. This included the carpets, ceilings, paint and furniture. All of the lighting was upgraded to high-efficiency fluorescent lighting and is run on a timer system that automatically shuts off the lights an hour after the facility closes.

The biggest energy efficiency upgrade was tying the building to the central geothermal system at Antioch College, Stratton said. This large geothermal system heats and cools the building, and it works in conjunction with high-volume fans in workout spaces to increase efficiency.

The fitness center is entirely new, converted from what used to be a basketball court. Some of the materials from the old floor were used to create a walking track around the equipment. All the cardio and strength equipment is new.

“It’s pretty much what is current in the fitness industry,” Hasek said. “We designed it for that reason. It’s functional fitness.”

She said the equipment, which was 40-50 years old, used to be located upstairs. It is now located on the ground floor near the entrance of the facility.

“This is huge for this community to see something like this,” Hasek said. “It is quite impressive because they know what it used to be.”

This fitness area was made more sustainable with added windows for daylighting, helping to cut back on electricity, Stratton said. “Formerly, the windows were all bricked in,” he said. “In the renovation, we decided to bring the windows back using insulated glass, which improved the thermal insulation of the building. We also added big fans that help cool the building. They’re synched with the heating and cooling system, so they’re always running when heating and cooling is. And this helped us downsize the heating and cooling in the building.”

A healthy “grab-and-go” snack bar is located in the fitness area, offering healthy prepackaged snacks like granola bars, bottled smoothies, coffee and tea. The facility also contains water fountains throughout that allow users to refill their water bottles and give an estimate of how many plastic water bottles have been eliminated through each fountain’s use – a number that already totaled well over 700 in October.

These fountains are only a small part of the building’s commitment to energy and water efficiency. The showerheads and faucets in the restrooms are all low flow, according to Stratton.

The pool was also completely rebuilt for maximum sustainability and water efficiency. It was dug out and built with new stainless steel lining, so it will last forever, Hasek said.

The pool has a UV filtration system that safely eliminates toxic chloramines and other disinfection byproducts and requires less energy. It also uses the minimum amount of chlorine allowed by the state because the water passes through this filtration system. Waste heat from the pool’s dehumidification system goes back into heating the pool, eliminating natural gas or electric energy in the pool’s maintenance.

The Wellness Center also offers fitness classes, and new studio space for these classes was created during the renovation. Formerly a racquetball court, the floor was raised to create a sprung dance floor, and windows were installed for better daylighting.

“We are really happy with the way this room turned out,” Hasek said. “It’s challenging in fitness centers to create an environment like this, but, so far, it’s been a great place to have quieter, mindful classes. We really wanted to pull off a beautiful space in a gym environment for our yoga and energy-related classes, and I think we have. People have been very pleased with it, and class numbers have been great.”

The center is also home to a large multipurpose room, which is now the largest place on campus for everyone to gather, Hasek said. Freshman orientation was held there, and it’s also opened up for community events like voting. The space is also available to rent out for weddings, receptions, parties or conferences.

This multipurpose room was also part of the old fitness center, but the roof was insulated and the high-efficiency fans were installed as part of the renovation. Curtains were also added, which Hasek said has helped improve the acoustics of the room.

Outside the facility, bike racks were added to encourage users to ride their bikes instead of driving there. A rain garden was also installed to return storm water runoff into the ground instead of overwhelming the municipal storm water system.

This renovation aimed to make the facility aesthetically pleasing, as well as sustainable.

“I’m really proud of the fact that this project maintains the historical aspects of the building, as well as the sustainability,” Hasek said. “It’s attractive and it’s inspiring to be in.”

One of the most difficult parts of the renovation, Hasek and Stratton agreed, was the high cost to be sustainable. The new Wellness Center cost $8.5 million, and it was completely funded by the college.

“When you do things like change out all your windows to thermal glass, it’s expensive,” Stratton said. “We could’ve lived with the lack of daylighting, but we felt, if we’re going to say we’re a sustainable, energy-efficient campus, these are things we have to do. Each decision we made about energy efficiency added to that cost.

“You have to look at it in terms of how much money you’ll save in energy savings over a 25-year span and compare it to those initial, upfront costs,” he continued. “Once you do that study it becomes a no-brainer.”

Despite the high cost, it was important to both Hasek and Stratton to make this new Wellness Center the best it could be. A yoga instructor herself, Hasek stressed the importance of a facility for health and wellness, especially on a college campus.

“There’s the physical sustainability of the buildings themselves, but it’s also important for us to be sustainable ourselves,” she said. “As human beings, we have to sustain our bodies and a lot of that has to do with wellness and fitness. Students deal with a lot of stress, and this will allow them to deal with that in a really healthy way. It will, hopefully, be an outlet for students that they didn’t have before, and I think that all of us, as humans, need these efforts to be sustainable.”

And all the hard work put into this renovation has paid off, according to Hasek.

“I write down quotes from people every day,” she said. “People come in and say within three weeks their quality of life has improved tenfold, and they say they feel like this is a gift to the village. There’s a deep appreciation and a real feeling of gratitude for this space. It brought Antioch back to life, and this is a real symbol of that.”

As part of their campus master plan, Antioch College will continue renovating buildings to achieve LEED certification. The college recently installed solar panels that it hopes will, in conjunction with the central geothermal plant, generate 90 percent of campus energy by 2018.

The Wellness Center at Antioch College is located at 1 Morgan Place in Yellow Springs. For more information about the new Wellness Center at Antioch College, as well as details about membership, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Christoff at

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