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Swartz Hall Renovations Involve Reducing Chemical Presence in Building

Swartz Hall, located at the Harvard Divinity School, is undergoing serious renovations with the goal to create a more sustainable building. The construction project will upgrade the building's electrical, plumbing, and climate control systems.
Swartz Hall, located at the Harvard Divinity School, is undergoing serious renovations with the goal to create a more sustainable building. The construction project will upgrade the building's electrical, plumbing, and climate control systems. By Aiyana G. White
By Ahab Chopra, Crimson Staff Writer

Scientific research from Harvard’s Healthier Building Materials Academy is being used to reduce chemical presence in the building formerly known as Andover Hall, according to a blog post from the Divinity School Director of Operations Ralph DeFlorio.

The century-old building, now called Swartz Hall, is currently being renovated with an expected completion date in 2021.

The HBMA is a partnership between Harvard’s Office for Sustainability, public health, medical, and engineering faculty. Soliciting HMBA’s expertise was meant to ensure that renewed space is developed in a way that is sustainable and healthy for the school community, according to the same blog post.

“The Divinity School has long had a strong tie with the environment. Going back a number of years, we have had seminars about the physical environment and how that relates to spirituality,” DeFlorio said in an interview last week.

The renovations to Swartz Hall are projected to surpass baseline environmental standards set by the Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. The improvements will reduce energy consumption by 18 percent, indoor water use by 35 percent, and outdoor water use by 50 percent, according to DeFlorio.

DeFlorio also emphasized the school’s commitment to using healthy materials in order to create a more sustainable building. He noted the Divinity School’s efforts to find materials that meet accepted environmental standards.

“Something that has really emerged in the last few years has to do with healthy materials,” he said. “We’re taking a lot of the research that has been done.”

“If something is not healthy, we are moving on until we find a product that is,” he added.

Swartz Hall’s renaming came after a $25 million donation from James and Susan Swartz to the Divinity School, which amounted to the largest donation in the Divinity School’s history. James Swartz is the co-founder of the global venture capital firm Accel.

Amirah Fadhlina, a student at the Divinity School, said she is unsure whether the renovations will maintain the building’s historic character.

“I personally love the classic old characteristic of Andover, the building,” she said. “Now that it’s under construction, I kinda feel all over the place and I’m not sure how I’m gonna feel about it being modernized.”

DeFlorio said that the Divinity School tried to incorporate Harvard’s values into the renovations.

“What we’ve done in the area of sustainable design is very much in alignment with the values of the school,” he said.

—Staff writer Ahab Chopra can be reached at ahab.chopra@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @ahab_chopra

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