Stone Child Community College serves students of the Chippewa-Cree tribe who live on the Rocky Boy Reservation in northern Montana. This year, the community college, one of 32 in the nation dedicated to educating Native Americans and preserving their culture, brought three new buildings online: a cultural learning facility, Sitting Old Woman Hall; a library and student services building; and Kennewash Hall, a 25,000-sq-ft academic and administration building.

For Kennewash Hall, a hydronic reheat Taco LoadMatch system with VAV was installed, and it is now providing daily indoor comfort for students, instructors, and administrators. For this D-B project, the tribe's architectural firm, Springer Group Architects, convinced college officials that a Taco LoadMatch hydronic system wouldn't cost much more than the all-air system they originally called for, but would be more comfortable and reliable in its delivery of Btu within the two-story building through the cold Montana winters.

By 2000, the college had simply run out of room in the local high school at the Rocky Boy Agency, where it had occupied space since 1990; a 50-acre site on the reservation was dedicated for the new campus. With funding from a variety of U.S. government agencies and private foundations, the new $4 million campus began to take shape three years ago. It now consists of the three buildings, with room to expand.

A major new structural addition to a small community college on an American Indian reservation in Montana was going to be outfitted with an all-air heating system designed to minimum code standard, but a single-pipe hydronic system turned out to be a better match.

Honoring Tradition

Bozeman-based Springer Group worked closely with tribal members and college faculty in the design of the new campus's centerpiece academic building, Kennwash Hall; the building was named after Chief Kennewash, an original tribal member and strong supporter of education during his lifetime. The building's design combines traditional Native American aesthetic in a thoroughly contemporary building. To that end, the iconic shape and design of Kennewash Hall, supervised by Springer Group partner Doug Morley, emphasized the unique tradition and sense of space of Native Americans, especially as an oral culture given to occupy round buildings and not rectilinear ones.

Morley's design for Kennewash Hall provides a dimension to the $2 million building that is particularly appropriate for its role as a tribal college. In the middle of the building's rotunda stands a large wooden pillar. The rotunda was designed to evoke a sun dance lodge, both with its shape, and especially through its commanding center wooden pillar; twisted wooden stairways connect the building's two floors, and large windows on both floors allow a flood of light into the building.

Kennewash Hall contains 16 classrooms, six computer labs, and two science labs. Satellite and high-speed Internet access are tied into the college's network. The general contractor for the building was Arrow Construction, a tribal business located in nearby Box Elder.

All-air No Match For -30°F

The college originally wanted an all-air heating system designed to minimum code standards. Considering the severity of Montana winters, however, a system had to be designed to handle -30°F days and nights, and Springer Group Architects, working with design engineering firm Three Rivers Engineering, didn't feel that gas-fired furnaces would be sufficient or meet minimum code standards for ventilation.

A higher performance preheat system was necessary. Even though hydronic systems usually cost more than all-air systems, the LoadMatch design that designer John Tetrault, P.E., came up with - a VAV reheat system employing Taco "00" LoadMatch circulators - didn't cost all that much more. The supply piping is located on the first floor, with the return on the second. Kennewash Hall has a central mechanical room linking all occupied areas and has a single air cooled chiller for summer cooling needs. McQuay supplied the AHUs and an air cooled condensing unit, while two Lochinvar Copper Fin boilers were also installed, along with a Johnson Controls EMS.

Tetrault calls the LoadMatch system "a great application, with significant dollar savings for a building over the life of the system." For Kennewash Hall, one of the big considerations for the heating system was a desire for low maintenance. "They wanted as few potential problems as possible with a new heating system," said Morley.

Kennewash Hall was finished in the spring of 2003, and classes for the new academic year commenced in September. Stone Child Community College now has an enrollment of some 300 students, and room for more. While many harsh winters are certainly in store, the heating system should be all set to meet winter's match with the warm, uniform comfort of hydronic heat. ES