By Ethan Forman
DANVERS — The building has solar panels that some say look like Imperial destroyers from "Star Wars."
There is a lush, green roof of plants designed to increase insulation and filter rainwater for use in toilets.
Five hundred feet down under the parking lot sit 60 geothermal wells, 2 feet in diameter, part of the energy-efficient heating and cooling system.
And, in every room, there are sensors to tell computers to shut the lights off when enough natural light pours in.
North Shore Community College has put an emphasis on being green and sustainable in its classrooms, and with the grand opening on the Danvers campus of the new, $31 million Health Professions & Student Services Building, the college's president can say the institution practices what it preaches.
"There should be no daylight between the values we espouse and the values we practice," Wayne Burton said during a tour of the building just before a grand-opening ceremony yesterday afternoon. Burton has long championed the idea of making college campuses more sustainable.
The building completes the three-building campus in Danvers, save for a garage to expand parking. It also serves to put all of the school's allied health programs under one roof. The building also has a new center where students can register for courses and seek out academic support.
Yesterday, state and local officials got their first glimpse at the three-floor, 58,000-square-foot building that is designed to generate more energy than it consumes. It's the state's first "Zero Net Energy" building, a pilot project that could someday act as a model for future state building, Burton said. It will be January before the building is fully operational.
The tour not only highlighted the numerous sustainable touches, like bottle-filling stations at water fountains, it showed off high-tech labs for health students.
In a simulation lab, nursing students can interact with a mannequin that can be programmed to exhibit certain symptoms. The nursing labs are wired with cameras, so what goes on in the lab can be watched in other classrooms.
The building also features a modern "vet tech" lab with a surgical suite for animal science majors. A radiology classroom not only has a dummy X-ray device but a real one, as well.
The solar panels are meant to help power the building. Any excess electricity produced will help power the college's Berry Building next door. Any excess power produced after that will essentially be sold to Danvers Electric, Burton said.
The room where all the building's systems are housed "looks like the space shuttle," Burton said.
The building will also serve as a lab, of sorts, for environmental science students, who will crunch the numbers to see if the building is living up to its potential to save energy. It also acts as a model for the college, which has a Green Team of faculty and staff who work to educate students on sustainability.
Burton said Gov. Deval Patrick was instrumental in starting the project, which broke ground in November 2009. Also important was support of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, the North Shore Workforce Investment Board and private donors.
The general contractor on the project was the state Division of Capital Asset Management, which oversees state buildings and property. It was designed by DiMella Shaffer, a Boston architectural firm, and it was built by Walsh Brothers Inc.
To learn more about sustainability and sample products and services from local vendors, farmers and a local winery, the public is invited to attend a Sustainability Fair on renewable energy technology on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the campus on 1 Ferncroft Road.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DanverSalemNews.