A living / learning laboratory for students designed to achieve net-zero energy usage
Some schools build environmentally responsible buildings, some schools teach environmental responsibility. At Choate Rosemary Hall, the Kohler Environmental Center, a laboratory for living, brings these two objectives together.
This new LEED Platinum, 31,325-sq-ft academic and residential facility, designed to achieve net-zero energy usage, accommodates cohorts of up to 20 students for a total-immersion environmental living experience and curriculum. As students live at the Center and take their classes and meals there, the building offers them control of their own environment; feedback from the building's monitoring systems enables them to teach themselves important lessons about how to live sustainably and responsibly by encouraging students to compete with each other to minimise their own energy footprint.
Set in the midst of 268 acres of meadows, agricultural fields, second-growth forest, and wetlands, the Kohler Center allows students to learn from the site's exceptional biodiversity and range of habitats. The building is approached by a footpath over a wooded wetland ravine, leading to a central, south-facing courtyard. A cloister lining the courtyard links the Kohler Center's 14 dormitory rooms, faculty apartments, common spaces, classrooms, laboratories and a state-of-the-art research greenhouse.
The building's materials - native stone walls, stained cedar trim and Hardie plank siding - reflect its rustic nature. Another goal of the Center is to teach environmental stewardship through sustainable design of the building itself. 100% of the building's annual energy needs are provided by a 250-kilowatt photovoltaic array, roof-mounted thermal solar panels and waste cooking oil.
A highly efficient building envelope, developed daylight harvesting and careful solar orientation optimise building performance. Additional sustainable features and energy conserving strategies include geothermal heat pumps, low water-use plumbing fixtures by Kohler and rainwater harvesting for greenhouse irrigation.