Engaging Stakeholders and Funders in Creating a Living Building at Net Positive for Higher Education Symposium

Hitchcock Center Executive Director Julie Johnson presented at the Net Positive for Higher Education Symposium sponsored by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). Her talk on June 26th was entitled Engaging Stakeholders and Funders in Creating a Living Building and shared Hitchcock Center’s process of building constituent support for the Living Building process.

For the past 17 years, Julie has worked to strengthen the impact and reach of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment’s mission to foster a greater awareness and understanding of our environment and to develop environmentally literate citizens. She has kept the Hitchcock Center at the forefront of leadership in environmental education through careful strategic planning, financial stewardship and partnership development.

Over the last seven years, this has involved managing the development of a new Living Building Challenge environmental learning center (pending Living Certification), which brought together a design-team of over 35 individuals, 300 funders, 100 staff, board, volunteer and community stakeholders, and a major new partnership with Hampshire College. Completed in 2016, the Center’s new living building now serves over 10,000 people from over 75 communities, 9 states and 5 countries annually. Julie attributes the Center’s success in completing this pioneering new building to its dedicated staff, committed board, and engaged community, but also recognizes her important role as a visionary leader and bridge builder in keeping the programmatic, financial and operational needs of the organization in balance. In 2017, Julie received the Green Giants Award from the Western Massachusetts American Institute of Architects.

Hitchcock Center Executive Director Julie Johnson presents Engaging Stakeholders and Funders in Creating a Living Building along with Mick Dalrymple of Arizona State University

The International Living Future Institute, which implements the Living Building Challenge, is sponsoring the Symposium for the first time on the East Coast, a result of the highest level of leadership and design in living buildings in the western MA region.

Campuses in Western Massachusetts—Hampshire College, Smith College, and Williams College—are on the forefront of transformation. These institutions, with others including the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, have been early adopters of the Living Building Challenge and the Living Community Challenge.

The Net Positive for Higher Education Symposium highlighted these campuses and projects and their holistic, multi-generational approach to sustainability, resiliency, health, innovation, and equity. Attendees explored case studies from these campuses to understand the design, development, and implementation of these living laboratories toward communities that are socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative. The symposium was for campus planners, sustainability directors, faculty/educators, administrators, operations staff, policy professionals, and design and construction professionals.

In addition to Julie’s presentation, over 50 participants toured the Hitchcock Center on June 25th, with Living Building Coordinator Jessica Schultz and project architects Sam Batchelor and Kelly Ard Haigh of designLAB Architects. Participants were curious about unique structural design elements of the center and the process for developing concepts and systems in our Living Building, which had the unique requirement to be designed as a teaching and advocacy tool.

A few of the workshops from the symposium included:

– The Science and Practice of Healthy Materials from the research being conducted at Harvard’s Living Lab on healthy building science, to the partnership with Google to build out Portico, a web‐based database repository of thousands of building products that have transparent material ingredient lists to help building teams source safer products and advocate for industry wide change..

– A River Runs Through It: The Story of Water Policy and Innovation in Western Mass with our local team sharing the tough work of operationalizing public water supplies from rain water capture in Living Buildings.

– Equity, Social Justice, and the Built Environment: Leveraging Living Buildings to Create Curriculum and Engage Students, presented by a team from Georgia Tech and offering an overview of their Serve, Learn, Sustain program and a course entitled Architectures of Sound that sought to focus on sound equity in the built environment.

– Teaching the Next Generation of Sustainability Leaders including and overview of how Hampshire College faculty are integrating systems thinking from disciplines of hydrology, microbiology and mathematical modeling through the R.W. Kern Center.

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