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College Opens Unique Modular Dorms to Students

September 10, 2020
Sawtooth and Owyhee

The College of Idaho’s innovative and sustainable new modular dorms are now open for students. The pair of new dorm buildings are built out of decommissioned shipping containers and are the first residence halls of their kind in the country.

The two separate dormitory halls are named Sawtooth and Owyhee to recognize significant geographic areas in Idaho that have been cared for and utilized by College of Idaho students, faculty and staff for generations.

On the heels of a record-setting 2019 new student class of 406 new students last fall, the College found itself experiencing a housing crunch and partnered with Caldwell company indieDwell to build quality, affordable housing that could be constructed more quickly than traditional housing. The end result is 54 new beds spread across 46 single rooms and four double rooms between the two buildings.

”This residential housing solution provides an exceptional living space for our students and is consistent with the College’s desire to support sustainability of the environment,” said Vice President for Finance and Administration Richard Erne. “Combining these factors with the overall economics, the new housing project fits perfectly into our residential housing program.”

Each building is three stories tall and constructed out of 40-feet-by-8-feet shipping containers weighing 16,000 pounds each. In all, 36 shipping containers were used for the two buildings. The construction is designed to be more energy efficient than traditional construction by minimizing any leaking of air and energy through the seams of the building. The design incorporates energy-efficient appliances, HVAC system, high-density insulation, and LED lighting throughout, among the many key energy components.

The buildings are also designed for healthy air consumption as each unit utilizes fresh air from the outside that is brought in, filtered, and then the stale air is pumped back outside. Combined with the tight construction and energy efficiency, the dorms are already nearly carbon neutral and waste-free.

“We are grateful to partner with The College of Idaho on this project where we extended our model of providing energy efficient, durable, sustainable and healthy housing to one of Idaho’s signature college campuses,” said Pete Gombert, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of indieDwell.

Most of the suites in each dorm are built with one large common living space that includes a full-size refrigerator, kitchenette, quartz countertops and water efficient kitchen and restroom features. Five individual bedrooms and two individual bathrooms extend off each common space.

Students moved into both dorms in August while finishing touches were still being done to both residence halls, including landscaping.

Madison Kingsbury, a senior at the College, is a Resident Assistant in Sawtooth Hall and has been living there since it opened. "I am so glad that I get to spend my last two semesters in Sawtooth Hall,” said Kingsbury. “Living on the edge of campus gives me a sense of privacy and space while I still have super quick access to important buildings on campus like McCain (student union building), Simplot (dining), and Hendren (business office and admissions). One of my favorite aspects of Sawtooth suites are how large the living spaces are in every suite. All four of my roommates and I are able to comfortably do homework and study together in the space."

The dorm with the blue trim is named Sawtooth, after the iconic Idaho mountain range. For years, the Sawtooths served as the backdrop for freshmen orientation. They currently mark a favorite place for College of Idaho students to journey with the Outdoor Program. In recent years, the College has partnered with organizations in the Sawtooth Valley so that our students could complete service work on trails and intern at the summer medical clinic in Stanley.

Owyhee is named after the Owyhee range that frames the College’s southern skyline. These mountains have been the site of decades of College of Idaho field research and activities. From the College’s earliest days, when founder Dr. William Judson Boone took wagonloads of students into the mountains for picnics and classwork, to their current role as the classroom for Idaho Natural History classes and Outdoor Program hikes, the Owyhees play a central role in The College of Idaho experience.

A video tour led by a College of Idaho student, which includes video of the containers being lifted into place by a large crane, can be found on the College’s YouTube channel at this link.

The College of Idaho has a 129-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.