Chandler Eco-Lodge opens doors

eco-lodgeA new 16-bed facility is now open and providing a place for students and others to stay at the College’s Claytor Nature Study Center.

Former LC trustee Charles R. Chandler was an early donor to the project and named the Eco-Lodge for his family.

“The Chandler family (Charles and Sandra, grandson Houston, and Ray) has always valued wildlife and the outdoors,” Charles’ son, Ray, said. “Growing up around the forests and streams of central Virginia was instrumental in leading me to a career in wildlife biology, and Houston is now pursuing a similar career as a graduate student in Virginia.

“Charles and Sandra, on behalf of the entire family, are thrilled to be able to support the Eco-Lodge. We hope that it will expand the possibilities for students at Lynchburg College to study biology and environmental science outside of the traditional classroom. Lynchburg College’s field station is a tremendous resource for students and faculty. We hope the Eco-Lodge will maximize learning opportunities at this site. Ultimately, we hope the Eco-Lodge will help create citizens who appreciate the value of a healthy natural environment.”

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The 2,100-square-foot lodge was sized to accommodate the 14 to 16 students in a typical science lab, Dr. Greg Eaton, director of the Claytor Nature Study Center, said. While it is not what the College initially envisioned as an “Eco Village,” it is a good way to start making Claytor more accessible, he said. Located in the shadow of the Peaks of Otter in Bedford County, the study center is about a 45-minute drive from LC’s main campus.

“In an effort to make this as cost-efficient as possible, we focused on what would provide the greatest initial benefit to those students who are primary users of the Center,” he said. The lodge is primarily for sleeping but does include a large living room for meetings or even classes.

The Chandler Eco-Lodge is built to EarthCraft certification standards with energy-efficiency and low-impact design in mind. The design included tree preservation, use of permeable surfaces, advanced framing techniques, and extra insulation of crawlspace, walls, and windows. The floor is made from local white oak.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the design is a constructed wetland to handle wastewater. The wetland is sealed with a rubber lining, much like a landfill. It has two septic tanks to treat waste. One has a pump that will dose the wetland with a prescribed amount of water to prevent flooding. The solids will settle in the wetland to provide nutrients for wetland plants.

The experimental design was approved by the Virginia Department of Health, which is interested in finding out how well this system works. There are meters on the wetlands to monitor flow in and out, and samples will be taken for chemical analysis to see how well the wetland cleans the wastewater.

The wetland will also be able to handle future construction at the site. Though there are no firm plans in place, Dr. Eaton said it would be nice to include smaller buildings to accommodate one or two researchers rather than having to open a facility for 16. The site plan calls for buildings to hold up to a total of 60 people.

Dr. Eaton also envisions a rainwater capture system for drinking water and solar panels for both hot water and electricity. He would like to see people living on site for a semester at a time — growing their own food and monitoring water and energy use for a true experience in sustainable living.