New Solar-Powered Massachusetts College Center Is as Green as a Building Can Be

Solar Energy

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Hampshire College’s new R.W. Kern Center is about as sustainable as a building can be. The 17,000-square-foot center, designed by Bruner/Cott & Associates, is designed “to be entirely self-sustaining and meet the Living Status of the Living Building Challenge.” To reach for those goals, the center runs on solar power, is outfitted with composting toilets, and includes a rainwater harvesting system.

Kern Center functions as a hub for student life with a “community living room” and cafe, and it also serves as a welcome center for parents and staff. Floor-to-ceiling windows connect those inside with the trees and wildflower meadow outside. Two wings clad with stone add natural beauty to the center. The stone and wood utilized were sourced locally. According to Bruner/Cott, all the building materials are “Red List compliant” and they avoided products containing toxic chemicals. The building materials aren’t the only green aspects of the Kern Center. A rainwater harvesting system allows for net-zero water, and the roof is decked out with large solar arrays.

Kern Center also functions as a “learning and teaching laboratory.” Signs and tours allow those interested to learn more about the center’s sustainability features. According to Bruner/Cott’s statement on the project, “New classes are built around the teaching opportunities the living building makes available, inspiring the kind of inquiry and stewardship embodied in Hampshire’s philosophy of contributing to knowledge, justice, and positive change in the world.”

In the words of Hampshire College, the Living Building Challenge is the “world’s most advanced green building standard.” Should the Kern Center be certified, it will move Hampshire closer to its goal of going carbon-neutral in the next four years or less.