ESSEX -– A local firm has won several design awards for the Biomass Heating Facility at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, which recently earned the top design awards from both the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New England and from AIA Connecticut, as well as the Alexion Award of Excellence, the top “Green Architecture” award of the Connecticut Green Building Council.
The awards went to Centerbrook Architects, the Essex firm that designed the building.
The biomass plant heats the independent school’s campus, with its 600 residents and 85 buildings, by burning sustainably harvested woodchips. The 16,500-square-foot building is part of Hotchkiss’ commitment to becoming carbon-neutral by 2020. The locally sourced woodchips replace some 150,000 gallons of imported fuel oil per year and cut emissions overall, most dramatically sulfur dioxide by 90 percent.
According to the school, the cost benefit in switching from fuel oil to woodchips has been impressive; it expects to save nearly $900,000 for the current fiscal year.
Aesthetically, the building design meets seemingly contradictory goals: creating an iconic campus presence while blending into the natural setting. It is capped by a rolling, vegetated roof that changes color, chameleon like, with each season. The facility also is designed to do double duty as an ancillary classroom, with a mezzanine that affords a view of the plant in operation and that houses an exhibit about the biomass process.
Centerbrook Partner Jefferson B. Riley, FAIA, led a design team that included Project Manager Alan Paradis, Mark A. Herter, Peter Cornell and Erik Lübeck.
Centerbrook’s portfolio (www.centerbrook.com) includes academic, commercial, residential, religious, and civic projects. It has worked on 70 campuses nationwide, including Quinnipiac University, Yale University, and Southern Connecticut State University.