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Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of the International Living Future Institute; Amy Johns; Jason McLennan, Chair of the Board of International Living Future Institute and founder of the Living Building Challenge.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 22, 2017—The Class of 1966 Environmental Center has achieved Petal Certification, meeting six of the seven environmental performance criteria for the Living Building Challenge (LBC). Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives Director Amy Johns ’98 accepted the building’s Petal Certification at the Living Future Conference in Seattle, Wash., on May 18.

Twelve months of consecutive data showed that the center qualified in six of the seven environmental performance criteria for the Living Building Challenge (LBC), but fell short for the energy standard, just missing full certification as a Living Building.

“We knew when we started that the Living Building Challenge is just that—a real challenge—and that it would take time, experimentation, and ongoing learning to achieve certification,” said Johns. “What we have learned can be passed on to the community and to those who come after us in pursuit of the LBC, and that’s what makes this building a valuable place for teaching. ”

The LBC program, administered by the International Living Future Institute, is the most stringent measure of sustainability in the built environment. It certifies buildings that have positive, regenerative environmental and community components. To meet the challenge, a building must demonstrate that it can live within its means, using only the electricity produced and water collected on-site and devoting 35 percent of its landscaping to food production.

Twenty imperatives determine ambitious goals in seven areas, known as petals: energy, water, materials, site, health, equity, and beauty. To date, only 11 buildings in the world have received full LBC certification.

The center continues to work on the energy goal for the building, partnering with consultants who have worked on other LBC buildings to review energy consumption and generation for the building and explore ways to improve both. The consultants’ analysis suggests that the building is using approximately the amount of energy that the original model predicted, but that the solar panels are under-producing by about 20 percent. Williams hosts the panels and purchases the electricity from them, but SolarCity owns the equipment. The college is awaiting approval from SolarCity to have an independent solar engineer examine the equipment.

Sitting in the heart of campus, the environmental center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to office space for the Zilkha Center and Center for Environmental Studies (CES), the building includes study areas, meeting and classroom space, and a kitchen that students may use to prepare and cook meals.

“We were aware from the very inception of the project that achieving Living Building Certification was going to be a great challenge, and that in many ways the greatest benefits from the endeavor were likely to come from what we learned as we tried to find ways to overcome the obstacles that we would encounter,” said Ralph Bradburd, CES chair and the David A. Wells Professor of Political Economy. “The idea of the building is to live in it and learn from it. The learning justifies the time, effort, and money we put into it.”

For more information on the Class of 1966 Environmental Center, including group tours for college, school, or community groups, go to http://env-center.williams.edu.

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Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.

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