Hitchcock Center’s New Environmental Education Center Completes Concept Design and Advances to Schematic Design

For Immediate Release
Julie Johnson, Executive Director

Hitchcock Center’s New Environmental Education Center Completes Concept Design and Advances to Schematic Design Amherst, MA – The Hitchcock Center for the Environment is excited to announce the completion of the concept design phase for its new 8,500 square foot environmental education center to be located on Hampshire College land. Continuing a 50-­‐year legacy of commitment to environmental education in western Massachusetts, the Hitchcock Center has taken on the ambitious sustainable building goal of striving to achieve Living Building Challenge (LBC) Certification, the highest standard in the built environment.

The Living Building Challenge seeks to challenge design teams to create buildings that are among the greenest in the world, reaching goals of Net Zero Energy and Water, avoiding red-­‐listed building materials, and encouraging positive changes at each step in the building process. The Hitchcock Center aims to be the first independent environmental learning center in New England to achieve full LBCTM Certification. By engaging in this challenging design and construction project, the new center will amplify Hitchcock’s mission by being a catalyst for change, inspiring and engaging every generation in our community to pursue an ecologically sustainable future. Toward that goal, the Hitchcock Center holds itself accountable to the highest standard of decision making exemplified through its educational programing, by walking the walk of a sustainable design, construction, and building process, joining as an emerging leader in projects designing to this standard in western Massachusetts.

“The creation of our Living Building Project is the most significant moment in Hitchcock’s history since its founding 50 years ago. It’s an incredibly challenging project. I’m excited to see us move to this next level in the design process and thrilled to be a part of that process. It’s wonderful to be working with such a committed group of volunteers and professionals.” Sarah laCour, Hitchcock Center Board President

The concept plan concluded an intensive year of work on the project which included selecting a design team to be led by designLAB Architects of Boston. designLAB, along with their team of engineers, exhibit designers, landscape architects, and sustainability experts led multiple workshops, design charettes, and community meetings to render a compelling design plan that will more than double the size of the Hitchcock Center and strengthen outdoor learning opportunities. In addition to the design team, the Hitchcock Center has retained Chris Riddle, formerly of Kuhn Riddle Architects as Project Manager and Jonathan Wright of Wright Builders as Pre-­‐Construction Manager.

The new center will include:

“Not only have we found a new ideal site with abundant natural amenities to strengthen our outdoor learning programs, we have an incredible design team who will create a building serving as a one-­of-­a-­kind educational laboratory to demonstrate how we can preserve a habitable planet.” Julie Johnson, Executive Director

The new building will be located on Hampshire College lands, off of Route 116 between the Red Barn and the farm center, just 2.5 miles down the road from Hitchcock’s current location on Route 116. The entrance will be readily visible from the street and remain accessible by public transportation. The site provides access to varied habitats and ecosystems, with an abundance of wild and cultivated lands for both public community use and Hitchcock’s outdoor classrooms and teaching spaces. While we will be located on Hampshire College land, the Hitchcock Center will remain a fully autonomous independent nonprofit organization. We share with Hampshire the aspiration to raise the bar in sustainability education for our region, and also benefit from the proximity to the College’s faculty, staff, and students.

About the Hitchcock Center for the Environment
The Hitchcock Center for the Environment is an independent nonprofit environmental learning center serving the communities of Western Massachusetts. Founded in 1962, The Hitchcock Center for the Environment’s mission is to foster a greater awareness and understanding of our environment and to develop environmentally literate citizens. Founded in 1962 by Ethel Dubois (1906-­‐1987), a former guidance counselor who was deeply inspired by the works of Rachel Carson, the Hitchcock Center was initially known as the Long Plain Nature Center and located on a farm in Leverett. In those early days, the organization provided summer camp and nature programs for low income children living primarily in Holyoke and Springfield through the support and work of a dedicated group of volunteers. Dubois’ simple goal was to provide these children with opportunities otherwise not available to them: to experience the natural world and to develop a sense of wonder about it. Over the years, the Center changed its name and began offering more programs and services, including new science and nature programs for schools and communities throughout Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin Counties. It moved to its current location at the Larch Hill Conservation Area in 1976, with the generous support of the Town of Amherst. Today, the Center remains true to its core mission to foster a greater awareness and understanding of our environment and to develop environmentally literate citizens. The Hitchcock Center for the Environment now serves nearly 6,500 children, youth, and adults each year, employs a growing staff of highly skilled environmental educators, and has a service region that encompasses all of western Massachusetts. Since 2000 alone, the Hitchcock Center’s programs have more than doubled. Space limitations are hampering the organization’s ability to meet rising requests for programs, field trips, and classes. The challenge of growth transpired into a unique opportunity for the Center to once again search for a new home and in the process, translate its core values into a built environment.

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