Inside Hamline University’s Anderson University Center, the vibrant forum has large and flexible event and meeting spaces as well as study areas for students. All Photos: Cory + Tamrah Ryan

Behind the Build

Almost every project faces obstacles, but Lowell Bromander credits McGough, the general contractor for Hamline’s Anderson University Center, for the relatively smooth build-out. “McGough was incredible,” he says. “They asked the right questions, identified problems early, and avoided a lot of mistakes we couldn’t afford to make.” As a go-to contractor for the university, McGough brought experience and innovation to the project from the outset. Shepley Bulfinch’s own proprietary technology—the high-performance walls—were an on-the-spot successful prototype built by McGough that allowed Bromander and his team to run two fewer heating units during construction through the Saint Paul winter.

When expecting a hungry football team for dinner, an unfinished kitchen spells bad news. That was one of the many challenges that came up in the construction of Hamline University’s Carol Young Anderson and Dennis L. Anderson University Center, which broke ground in March 2011. It took $36 million, 16 months, and a handpicked team to deliver on the project, but on August 10, 2012, the center opened its doors—just in time to welcome its Pipers football team after the first practice of the season.

Although not officially certified, the building is LEED Silver equivalent, and its conception began more than five years ago. When the board of trustees met in 2007 to lay out a five-year strategic plan for the Saint Paul, Minnesota, campus, it became apparent that its 1960s-era student center was over capacity for the 5,000 students and more than 600 faculty and staff members. It was at that same meeting that the university’s ethic of sustainability was first put in writing and a task force was assembled to see it through. This was the perfect opportunity to transform Minnesota’s first institution of higher education into one of the greenest.

When the university was ready to assemble its A-team, it carried out an intense integrated planning process, says Hamline associate vice president for facilities services Lowell Bromander, a member of both the Sustainability and the University Center task forces. Experts were drafted from various industries, from masonry to energy, to create a stacked, Minnesota-heavy crew. Bromander’s role on the two task forces allowed him to function as a natural liaison and maintain the sustainability vision while always considering the integrity of the center.

However, before the foundation could be poured, the crew had to clear more than three-dozen trees from the site. Making the most of the loss, the team opted to move 30 of the trees to new locations on campus, and the others were harvested for furniture, signage, and artwork within the Anderson Center. What couldn’t be used in those capacities was taken to District Energy in Saint Paul to be used as fuel.

Anderson Center - Campus Entrance Day

The Anderson Center gives students and faculty a place for good food, meeting rooms, meditative spaces, and state-of-the-art technology to support large and small gatherings.

Anderson Center - Dining Services

The Anderson Center has an open dining area for students who choose to get food at the center or bring their lunch.

Anderson Center - Fireplace

When it’s cold outside, the lounge offers a toasty place to warm up by the fire with a cup of coffee from the adjoining Starbucks coffee shop.

Above the third floor is a lush, 1,800-square-foot green roof that helps mitigate urban heat island effect and provides additional insulation for energy savings and sound control.

Above the third floor is a lush, 1,800-square-foot green roof that helps mitigate urban heat island effect and provides additional insulation for energy savings and sound control.

The Anderson Center offers the calming space of a Wellspring meditation center, which is open to all who desire a quiet space for reflection or prayer.

The Anderson Center offers the calming space of a Wellspring meditation center, which is open to all who desire a quiet space for reflection or prayer.


Location Saint Paul, MN
Size 76,957 ft2
Completed 2012

In the new building, Hamline has a front door to both the Saint Paul and Hamline communities. “There are no back doors,” Bromander says. “Our three goals for the facility were to foster community, connections, and collaboration.” Functioning as the campus living room, the Anderson Center was conceived as a meeting place where students, faculty, and staff could gather and relax, study, and dine. And through the multifunctionality of the center’s spaces, the new technologies it has incorporated, and the accommodations the building provides, the building itself reflects that campus personality well.

On the second floor, which is dedicated entirely to food service, Bromander and his team wanted the ability to seat at least 500 people in the 25,000-square-foot space shared with the kitchen. Sensors throughout the building take readings and automatically adjust to changing temperatures and airflow so that no energy is wasted on over-conditioning the space. Thirty-two miles of network cable and two computer bars with seven machines also help Hamline respond to the community’s technology needs. The two-story solarium doubles as a living room space and event center, and the 56,000 square feet of underground parking serves 105 vehicles at a time—plus three electric car-charging stations—without sacrificing any green space.


Client Hamline University
Architect Shepley Bulfinch
Contractor McGough
Solar Panels tenKsolar
Permeable Pavers Borgert Products
Green Roof Bachman’s Inc.
Acoustic Tiles Acoustigreen

The Anderson Center is Hamline’s first official green building; however, before it was built, unsung efforts were going on across campus that contributed to the green movement and decreased the university’s environmental impact. For more than 20 years, locally raised pigs have been eating the discarded double cheeseburgers of Hamline students through a food-waste management program. And, when the new Klas Field replaced the Pipers’ gridiron in 2004, material from the old concrete football stadium was pulverized and recycled. “We have lots of great stories about Hamline’s sustainability efforts,” Bromander says, “but Hamline has this culture of being very humble. We need to push that aside as much as we’re comfortable and start telling those stories.”

Some of the green aspects of the new university center are impossible to overlook. The roof and side of the building have 118 solar panels that provide 2.5 percent of the building’s energy needs. Sharing the roof with the panels is a garden of vegetation designed to harvest rainwater and help manage runoff, and though Saint Paul is more known for its winters than its summers, the green roof helps to alleviate strain on the cooling system as well.

During construction, Bromander’s team replaced two less-efficient boilers, which were operating below full capacity, and installed one high-efficiency pressure steam-boiler.  Even with the additional heating needs of the Anderson Center, Hamline has actually improved its heating efficiency. Bromander says the additional demand for steam brought the new boiler up to its operating potential and allowed the university to maximize its output.

In routing the steam to the center, a section of the campus sidewalks had to be removed, the space repaved, and street lamps reinstalled. This was yet another opportunity to execute the sustainability plan. The team decided to use LED lamps, which save energy and have lower maintenance costs. They also installed a sidewalk of permeable pavers that both relieve the storm-water system and decrease the hardscape of the space. As the campus and its fixtures age, these technologies will continue to replace traditional sidewalks and lamps.


Certification Not applicable
Landscape 1,800-square-foot green roof, perennials, native grasses
Lighting Daylight harvested in two-story solarium space, skylights
Energy Photovoltaics generate 2.5% of required energy
Water Permeable pavers, rainwater cistern

Special attention was paid to the lighting and materials used in the Anderson Center as well. More than three quarters of the center is daylit by skylights and towering windows such as those making up the center’s sleek, curved front façade, and an automated system compensates with electric lights when light levels are too low. The university used low-VOC paints and glues throughout the building, and the ceiling tiles were sourced from Delano, Minnesota-based Acoustigreen, whose products are all made from 100 percent locally sourced, recycled wood.

Yet the most revolutionary aspect of the building is around every corner—literally—but impossible to see without a sledgehammer. The high-performance walls conceptualized by architects at Shepley Bulfinch and constructed by McGough are an energy-saving achievement that proved their results even before the building was complete. The walls consist of an exterior rain screen and rock-wall insulation, which is separated by air space, then followed by a permeable vapor barrier, sheeting, and spray insulation. Bromander had expected to run three heat sources to get the crew through the winter of 2011, but thanks to the wonder walls, he only needed one. “It’s the first wall type like this I know of in the Twin Cities,” Bromander says.

Hamline was able to further reduce its environmental impact in construction through making a comprehensive commitment to local sourcing. Aside from Acoustigreen, contributing Minnesota companies include Bloomington-based tenKsolar, which provided the solar panels; Borgert Products in St. Joseph, which supplied the permeable pavers; and the Twin Cities’ Bachman’s, a local LiveRoof grower, which planted the green roof.

Just within a year of operation, the Anderson Center has already become a hive of activity on the Hamline campus. “I don’t know where the students were hanging out before,” Bromander says, “because I’ve never seen it like this.” He jokes that the appeal of the building has even lured the law students out of the law school.

Hamline is certainly not as large as the University of Minnesota, but the Anderson Center and the architectural precedent it has set are putting this smaller institution in the company of the Minnesota’s larger schools. “I meet fairly regularly with facilities managers from other schools in the state,” Bromander says, “and we get excited about each other’s work. We’ve done some things here that haven’t been done in other buildings, and people want to know how we did it.”