Kohler Environmental Center Opens First Residential Environmental Center in U.S. Secondary Education
U.S. Green Building Council Certifies Facility as LEED Platinum
Wallingford, Conn. – "Back to school" is offering an entirely new academic experience for a small group of high school juniors and seniors who are the first class to attend the new Kohler Environmental Center (KEC) on the campus of Choate Rosemary Hall, a college preparatory school in Wallingford, Conn.
The KEC is the first teaching, research and residential environmental center in U.S. secondary education, and in November, was certified LEED Platinum by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). The 14 high school students and faculty members living and studying there are being challenged to live "net zero."
It is a living laboratory – a residential facility that can house up to 20 students and two faculty members, and also provides living quarters for a visiting researcher, graduate student or scholar-in-residence. The students attend honors classes in a year-long intensive, interdisciplinary environmental-immersion program. Students and faculty are experiencing what it means to live sustainably.
"There's already a strong sense of community not only amongst ourselves, but with the nature around us," said junior Courtney Pal.
Providing the inspiration, financial support and design direction for the new 31,800-square foot Kohler Environmental Center, is Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Kohler Co. He graduated from Choate Rosemary Hall in 1957 and then served on the school's board of trustees from 1995 – 2011.
During his years as a trustee, Kohler had become concerned that the 266 acres of land adjacent to the school was vulnerable, as it could easily be sold for monetary advancement or to bolster the school's endowment.
"Over the years, I'd look more closely at the land and found it to be remarkably diverse in elevation, topography, amount of water, and the wildlife that inhabited it," said Kohler. "So I became determined to preserve it, hopefully in perpetuity," said Kohler. "The land will now act as a laboratory for those who live there so they can speak with authority and lead responsibly on the subject of sustainability."
Construction began on the Kohler Environmental Center in February 2011 and was designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP, recognized for its expertise in environmentally sustainable design.
"We are confident that this Center can produce leaders with a constructive sensitivity for the environment who will try to prove that human beings are able to enhance the environment as opposed to controlling, dominating or wasting the environment," said Kohler.
A Choate senior, Sarthak Agrawal, said he's excited for the time when he can "go out into the world and bring our sustainable ideas to a larger audience."
DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF THE KOHLER ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER
• Energy and resource-efficient techniques and materials were used during the course of construction
• The net-zero energy operation is made possible because of features such as an acre of 296-kilowatt photovoltaic panels that provide energy to operate the facility; a roof-mounted solar water-heating system; a geothermal heat pump; and a waste vegetable oil burner to heat the greenhouse
• A "dashboard" in the building's lobby enables students to monitor their energy consumption and track the building's energy production
• High-efficiency KOHLER plumbing products are installed for low-water usage
• Dorm room lights, desk lamps and fans are all controlled with lighting-control systems tied into an occupancy sensor to turn off if the room is vacant
• Cedar sunshades filter the southern exposure in summer while allowing winter sunlight in
• The controller for the rooftop evacuated-tube solar water-heating system allows residents to evaluate their system needs and optimize systems with the hot water produced by solar energy. It also allows the residents to monitor and program system performance.
• Polished concrete floors were selected for corridors, labs, and the commons. This reduced material usage since tile, wood, or carpet was not necessary in those spaces. The corridors and classrooms will pick up solar gain in the winter from southern exposure for passive heating.
Founded in 1873 and headquartered in Kohler, Wis., Kohler Co., is one of America's oldest and largest privately held companies. Kohler is a global leader in the manufacture of kitchen and bath products, engines and power systems, cabinetry, tile and home interiors, and international host to award-winning hospitality and world-class golf destinations.