Updated February 23 at 11:56am
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Bryant's Unistructure was ahead of its time

When Bryant College's Unistructure was completed in 1970 it was considered the model of high-efficiency design.

K. Alexa Mavromatis
Staff Writer

When Bryant College's Unistructure was completed in 1970 it was considered the model of high-efficiency design.

It was expected to conserve energy by housing classrooms, staff and administrative offices, an auditorium, library, post office and cafeteria all in one 330,000 square-foot thermal-paned structure. It was - and is - according to Bill Gilmore, the facilities engineer who looks after the building, "our one-stop shopping headquarters.

"I'm sure it was earth-shattering, especially in the pristine woods of Smithfield," Gilmore said. "It's certainly not colonial."

Gilmore said the Unistructure was the first major project for J. Robert Hillier, founder and chairman of the board of what is today one of the nation's largest architecture firms.

"The building wasn't designed for the new efficiency requirements," Gilmore said. "We've upgraded every light fixture in the whole building. We're using 50 percent of the energy we used to use on lighting. We're getting better light and more of it - we're maximizing every possible watt."

Another energy-saving feature, added to the Unistructure in 1993, is the building's thermal ice cooling system, which cools the building with air passed over what is literally a large ice cube. The $750,000 cube is frozen every night from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m., and has its own storage house behind the building. The money-saving concept is nothing new.

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