Lucky students at New Jersey’s Willow School will attend classes in a building certified to the Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous green building standards.
At the elementary and middle school, the new 20,000 square- foot Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center will be a model learning environment for students.
The Center has classrooms, commercial and teaching kitchens, a dining hall, performance arts space, health/ wellness area, and an "energy gallery." Surrounding the building are vegetable gardens, composting areas, and native landscaping.
"Studies show that green schools broaden the curriculum, increase student engagement and productivity, and improve academic performance. It’s an ideal learning environment," says Mark Biedron, co-founder of The Willow School.
Designed to function as beautifully and elegantly as nature’s architecture, Living Buildings must generate all of their own energy through renewable resources, capture and treat their own water through ecologically sound techniques, and incorporate only nontoxic, appropriately-sourced materials. Buildings achieve full certification after meeting these standards for one year. Designers are also pursuing LEED Platinum certification.
The building produces more electricity and water than it consumes, enabling it to replenish the local aquifer, and generates no waste that is not recycled.
"The remarkable features of the building will become teaching tools to help our students understand that all living things are connected. As children, they will understand why it’s important to act as responsible stewards of the land and carry that with them into adulthood," says Amy Swenson, who heads the school.
Founded in 2002, Willow was the first school to earn LEED Gold certification and its Barn is certified LEED Platinum.
Other schools that have taken the Living Building Challenge are the Bertschi School’s Living Science Building in Seattle and a classroom at The Monarch School in Texas.
Here is The Willow School’s website: