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Welcome Center, WCROC building open

The University of Minnesota, Morris officially opened its renovated Welcome Center. See Photo Galleries of the Welcome Center and the new West Central Research and Outreach Center building at

Two new -- and yet old -- buildings had open houses this week, and both were designed and remodeled with sustainable energy ideas at their core.

The Univerity of Minnesota, Morris' Welcome Center was officially opened on Tuesday, as was the newly remodeled West Central Research and Outreach Center building, which features a new auditorium financed by AgCountry.

The completions of both projects coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of UMM, and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the West Central School of Agriculture and Experiment Station. UMM and the WCROC grew from the WCSA and Experiment Station.

UMM Chancellor Jacquie Johnson greeted visitors at the Welcome Center and relayed a story about a man who arrived on campus for an event at the library. The man saw the Welcome Center's sign and stopped in there first, asking if he needed to register.

"It's already fulfulling its purpose," Johnson said with a smile. "People already are drawn to it, as we hoped they'd be."

The Welcome Center also serves as the home for UMM's External Relations and Admissions departments, as well as the Center for Small Towns and the offices of Continuting Education and Community Engagement.

The building is striving for LEED Platinum certification, which is a building standard that gauges a project based on its use of sustainable building practices, material reuses, recycling and energy efficiency. Platinum is the highest LEED certification possible.

The building uses in-floor heating only, and also chilled-beam cooling technology, which replaces conventional air conditioning. Many of the building's furnishings were restored and renewed. Energy for the building will be provided by UMM's wind turbine and by its biomass system, when it's operational.

In another crossover, much of the exterior wood siding removed from the WCROC during renovations was reused to create walls in the Welcome Center entry.

The WCROC's $3 million renovation includes a 200-seat theater addition paid for with donations from AgCountry, and other meeting areas for educational uses by staff and area organizations.

The building also includes numerous renewable and alternative energy features, such as solar power, geothermal systems.

Other design and building features were implemented as a way to take advantage of, and research, new energy sources and sustainable construction methods.