MORRIS, MINN. - After five years of planning, the "Green Dorm" at the University of Minnesota, Morris is under construction and expected to be ready for students in fall 2013.

The Green Prairie Living and Learning Community is the first new dorm built on the campus in about 40 years, said T.J. Ross, associate director of the Office of Residential Life.

The $6.9 million project will house 72 students of all classes in suite-style dorms that will offer more single rooms than other campus housing options.

"We get a lot of students who are looking for a single room to stay in, so the suites are designed so everyone will have their own bedroom," Ross said. "We're hoping a lot of our upper-class students will choose to stay and live on campus."

The wings have community kitchens and common spaces, and will serve as a "lab for green living," said Roger Purdy, construction administrator with LHB, the firm that designed the building.

Purdy said that the building was designed to mimic the other buildings on campus and that interior finishes such as stained concrete would match other campus buildings such as the recently completed Welcome Center.

"We've had a long time to really think about how this fits in and blends in with the rest of the campus," Purdy said.

The building is designed to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified, and will include regional and recycled materials, insulated concrete and energy-efficient systems.

The location for the new building was chosen to maximize the green design possibilities, said Sandy Olson-Loy, vice chancellor for student affairs. The site will include an orchard and edible landscaping, as well as gardens that will be used by students who live in the building.

When students are away from campus for the summer, the new building will offer more opportunities to bring groups to campus for education and research. It will be the only fully air-conditioned building on campus, which should help bring more adult groups in the summer, Ross said.

University leaders are working to obtain additional grant money that would allow them to install energy metering or monitoring equipment to make the facility more of a learning laboratory, Olson-Loy said.

Of all the construction management firms who presented proposals for the project, McGough Construction offered the most aggressive timeline for completing the building, Olson-Loy said. The proposal also included an educational trailer on the construction site to offer learning opportunities for students and community members during the building phase.

Jim Rothstein, senior project manager with McGough Construction, acknowledged that starting construction in December is "not ideal," but that crews had been very fortunate with clear weather over the past month and have not experienced any delays so far.

The goal is to have the building finished by the end of July to give the campus a month to furnish the building and prepare for students, Rothstein said.