Environmental education hub earns sustainability honor
Addition to Hard Bargain Farm receives international certification
The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Environmental Center was certified as the greenest building in Maryland on Monday, completing all requirements of the Living Building Challenge put forth by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI).
The Accokeek center is just the 13th building in the world to meet the criteria of the challenge, which includes operating for a full year at net-zero energy and net-zero water use as well as being
carbon neutral and utilizing construction materials that are non-toxic and non-polluting, among other qualifications.
Owned and operated by the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF), the Cafritz Environmental Center is designed to enhance the experience of the thousands of local elementary school kids who journey to Hard Bargain Farm every year. In addition to participating in hands-on agricultural activities, students will now be able to observe energy-efficient processes and study an advanced ecological curriculum.
“Our mission is to connect people to nature, sustainable agricultural practices and the cultural heritage of our local watershed,” said Lori Arguelles, executive director of the AFF. “Throughout the decades, our guiding principles have been education, inspiration and innovation, all three of which are exemplified in the building we are here to certify today.”
The structure is located at the edge of an open field, tucked in between the trees and surrounding wetlands. Its sprawling roof, lined with solar panels, extends toward the sky to welcome the sun’s rays. Stadium seating and a dining area surround the front and side of the building, with an outdoor fireplace wedged between a storage wing and the multi-purpose area. With high-arching ceilings and wood flooring made from downed trees around the site, the multi-purpose room provides a wilderness setting without the consequences of Mother Nature.
“The building represents a deep commitment by the Alice Ferguson Foundation and by the design and construction team and everybody involved in this project,” said Kathleen Smith, vice president for the Living Building Challenge of the ILFI. “It’s a commitment in terms of the effort involved in creating a living building, but it’s also a commitment to the environment and to people now and into the future.”
With the creation and certification of the center, the AFF is setting an example in the region as sustainability and environmental factors play an increasing role in architecture. Lance Davis, program manager for Design Excellence Architecture/ Sustainability at U.S. General Services Administration, explained how the building serves as a model for future development in Washington, D.C., and beyond.
“The federal government is moving toward net-zero energy, water and waste for all of our new construction,” Davis said. “Buildings like this give us that opportunity to bring some of those officials out, to bring design teams out and say, ‘Hey, yes, this is much smaller than what we have to do but it’s that starting point.’ You start from here and you continue to build.”
The AFF is also planning to replace the 41-year-old Wareham Lodge in favor of an overnight lodge complete with a sleeping and activity space illuminated by sunlight. Deconstruction of the current lodge will begin this fall, during which two new bunkhouses will serve as living quarters. These extra spaces will become auxiliary housing once the new lodge is finished, allowing the farm to accommodate more students.
Lori Arguelles, executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, discusses Monday the Cafritz Environmental Center beside a diagram of the project.
Kathleen Smith of the International Living Future Institute presents executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation Lori Arguelles with full certification for the Cafritz Environmental Center under the Living Building Challenge. From left: Steve Walz, Director of Environmental Programs, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Delegate Susie Proctor, Smith, Arguelles, David Iannucci, Assistant Deputy CAO for Economic Development and Public Infrastructure at Prince George’s County, Bud Wareham, Vice President of the AFF.
Executive director of the Alice Ferguson Foundation Lori Arguelles addresses the audience at the conference to certify the Cafritz Environmental Center under the Living Building Challenge.