Williamstown, Mass. >> The Class of 1966 Environmental Center at Williams College is offering tours of the building for the community from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. August 3. Light snacks will be offered. Children are welcome.

"We welcome the community to tour the Environmental Center to learn more about sustainability and green building initiatives," said Amy Johns, director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives.

The Environmental Center, which opened last fall after a renovation and expansion, is the centerpiece of campus-wide sustainability efforts. The college is aiming for the center to be certified as a Living Building. The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is the most rigorous and advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment. It is believed that the Environmental Center would be the first historic renovation to achieve Living Building status. To do so, the Environmental Center must demonstrate over the course of a year that it can perform as a net-zero energy and net-zero water building. It is currently in the midst of that performance period, with the center's energy production and energy and water consumption being carefully tracked.


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The center's design maximizes space and minimizes energy and water demand. It uses on-site solar energy and rooftop water collection to produce 100 percent of the energy and water required for its operation. Offices are compact, and its larger rooms serve triple duty as classrooms and meeting rooms during the day, student study spaces and workrooms in the evening, and social and informal gathering spaces for students, faculty, staff and alumni throughout the year. More than a third of the site is used for organic food production of berries, fruit trees, annual and perennial vegetables, and herbs. Data displays provide building users with real-time information about energy and water usage so that users can adjust behaviors to better utilize resources.

The center houses both the Center for Environmental Studies and the Zilkha Center, which is the administrative operation that focuses on sustainability across the college. In addition to faculty and staff offices, the building has a classroom, kitchen, reading room, and an outdoor amphitheater. Formerly known as the Kellogg House, the Environmental Center was built in 1794 as a home for the college's first president, Ebenezer Fitch. It has been renovated and moved three times and was used as faculty housing for many years. In 1978, it became the home of the Center for Environmental Studies program.