Connecticut is known for its fine schools, and it should come as no surprise that these institutions of higher learning should be leading the way not only in teaching students about being green, but also in practicing what they teach. Two of the state’s most famous prep schools and one of its community colleges now boast signature green buildings, and one of them is a revolutionary power plant that is expected to become a model for such energy generators. A community health center and a private office building round out the list of the top five green buildings in the state.
The Hotchkiss School Biomass Facility
The Hotchkiss School
11 Interlaken Road
Lakeville, CT 06039
Winner of the 2013 Alexion Award of Excellence from the Connecticut Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, the sustainable biomass power plant at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville provides energy for the 85 buildings on the campus. It burns wood chips – but only accepts wood chips harvested from local suppliers who do so in a sustainable manner. The facility is “carbon neutral” and replaces the previous power plant which used upwards of 150,000 gallons of fuel oil annually. The waste ash from the facility is used as fertilizer – mostly at the school’s farm, which supplies a significant portion of the food used by the dining hall, which feeds 600 students plus faculty and staff daily.
Even the building itself is “green,” as the undulating roof, which is meant to mimic the surrounding foothills of the Berkshires, is planted with ground cover that filters rainwater runoff into the nearby wetlands. The biomass facility was constructed with recycled materials and was designed by Centerbrook Architects and Planners.
Kohler Environmental Center
Choate Rosemary Hall
868 Old Durham Road
Wallingford, CT 06492
An environmental center should be an example of all that is green – and the Kohler Environmental Center at Choate Rosemary Hall is not only a site that educates students at this private college prep school on environmental responsibility, it is also constructed and run as a model of the very ecological conscientiousness its professors teach. Set in a biologically diverse landscape, the Kohler Center provides housing, classroom and laboratory facilities for students, and its energy requirements are met by a combination of roof-mounted solar panels, an underground earth duct that taps into the soil temperature and use of waste cooking oil. It has a greenhouse and rainwater collection cistern to supply water to the plants and a “solar chimney” that in warm weather allows hot air to exit while drawing in cooler air.
The center was made possible by a grant from Herbert Kohler, chairman and CEO of the company that bears his family’s name, and who himself is a graduate of Rosemary Choate.
Gateway Community College
20 Church St.
New Haven, CT 06510
The new Gateway Community College building sprawls elegantly across two downtown blocks in the Elm City and is proof that even deep in the heart of an old city, an ecologically and environmentally sound structure can rise and shine like a beacon of hope. From its “remediated brownfield” roots to its roof garden, Gateway Community College’s new building is designed to reduce water and energy use and cut waste, and to be more accessible to students who come by bicycle and public transportation. About one-fifth of the construction materials were either recycled or drawn from building projects in the region. The ground-floor rain garden is designed to both cut water used in irrigating the grounds by half as well as help ameliorate the “heat island” effect of the large building on the city.
Community Health Center of Middletown
675 Main St.
Middletown, CT 06457
A health center should be healthy, and the Community Health Center in Middletown is doing its best to meet that goal. Architect Robert Olson + Associates, LEED Consultant Suzanne Robinson and the PAC Group general contractors designed and built an environmentally sound and sustainable building that provides health care to the needy in the community. Made of recycled and regional materials, the Community Health Center is a “high performance building envelope” with an electric car charging station and cultivated green roof. The sustainable design has not only provided Middletown with a showcase, it has also helped revitalize the previously ailing North End.
400 Atlantic Street
400 Atlantic St.
Stamford, CT 06901
Make an old office building green? That was the goal the Landis Group that manages the multi-tenant office building at 400 Atlantic Street in Stamford set for the architects at Ulrich Franzen Associates. According to Sustainable Stamford, Energy Star and other green groups, that goal was met – and then some, enough to earn 400 Atlantic Street and its management and others involved the Building of the Year, Engineer of the Year and other green awards and medals in 2012 and 2013.
The building was not only redesigned to be more energy efficient and environmentally conscious, but also with its in-house “green team,” is continually moving toward becoming an even more responsible and sustainable operation. The management company reports that fuel, gas and electrical energy consumption has fallen significantly, and that next up is an examination of how to reorganize the parking garage and parking operations to help reduce emissions and make them also more efficient. All service employees as well as engineering and management are also actively encouraged to act and offer ideas on how to make the facility even more ecologically sustainable.
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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.