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Green Building of the Week - Class of 1966 Environmental Center at Williams College

Allison Friedman MA, United States 0 Ratings 99 Discussions 131 Group posts

Posted by: Allison Friedman // Rate It Green Admin

"As a leading institution of higher learning, we believe it is our mission to demonstrate extraordinary commitment to higher principles and to show that high performance institutional buildings are possible and practical.”

This week we are pleased to select The Class of '66 Environmental Center at Williams College as our Green Building of the Week. In one sense, the Center is an excellent and easy choice, as a leading edge green building with a great design that blends a historic building with a modern and eye-catching appeal. But there’s also a story here of a community thinking about and expressing sustainable values, for current students and the campus, and for future generations and beyond immediate borders as well.

According to Mike Evans, Assistant Director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, which is housed in the Center, "We were looking for a challenge. We were looking to push the boundaries of what sustainable building means on a college campus.” And they have. The Center is pursuing the Living Building Challenge certification, a rigorous and thorough standard that requires nezero water and energy use, non-toxic materials and finishes which are also locally sourced as much as possible, “human” and approachable, livable space, and even edible landscape - 35% of the site. To attain the certification, the building’s performance will be measured over the 12 months, starting in November, 2015.

One interesting challenge is that the more popular the building is, the more energy might be used which could ironically risk the certification! But the Williams team takes this in stride, and they actively want students to gather and for students of other majors and interests to feel comfortable and find the building usable, approachable, and a great place to learn. Ralph Bradburd, the Department Chair of the Environmental Studies Program which is also housed in the Center, proudly asserts, “The team wanted to have a building that would not just be a space where learning would occur, but a building that would actually be an assistance to learning itself.” Even if the certification is not achieved, he believes, "If we learn a great deal about how people behave and what motivates them, the exercise will not have been a failure.” We’re willing to bet they make it!

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