Press Release: Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs and the Dept. of Conservation & Recreation announced a $500,000 award to the Hitchcock Center’s living building project

On May 31, 2016, Secretary Matthew Beaton of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and Commissioner Leo Roy of the Department of Conservation and Recreation announced a $500,000 award to the Hitchcock Center for the Environment’s living building project.

The announcement was made during a visit and tour of the Center’s new building, now 90% complete, on Tuesday morning. It was an opportunity for Secretary Beaton and Commissioner Roy to meet with the Hitchcock Center’s Board of Directors, staff and volunteers, along with key community leaders including Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Representative Ellen Story, to preview this new learning destination that will more than triple the Hitchcock Center’s educational space.

With this announcement, the EOEA has now invested over $1.3M for the construction of this pioneering new building aimed at promoting new ways of thinking and learning about ecological sustainability: $1M from EOEA’s Department of Conservation and Recreation authorized by the Massachusetts Environmental Bond Bill and sponsored by Representative Ellen Story and $330,000 awarded from EOEA’s Department of Energy Resources through their Pathways to Zero Net Energy Grant Program.

In constructing its new home, the Center is taking the Living Building Challenge™, a building certification program that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment today. Currently, fewer than 10 buildings in the world have been fully certified. The Hitchcock Center aims to be the first environmental education center in the state to achieve full Living Building Challenge™ certification. Unlike LEED certification, it will take 12 full months of continuous operation to demonstrate that the building meets the rigorous performance standards of the Challenge, including net zero energy and water, for the Center to achieve full certification.

“The Hitchcock Center’s Living Building Project demonstrates excellence in sustainability and will serve as a model for future buildings,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “I am proud of the Baker-Polito Administration’s dedication to ensuring that organizations dedicated to energy efficient innovation have the tools and support they need from the Commonwealth to see their projects come to fruition.”

The Hitchcock Center broke ground a little over a year ago after two years of designing and planning its new building with designLAB architects and Wright Builders, Inc., their project architect and construction manager respectively. In 2012, a group of dedicated campaign volunteers headed up by Nancy Eddy, the Hitchcock Center’s Building for Future Campaign Chair, began raising the necessary funds to complete the Center’s new home, $5.8M. With the EOEA’s funding announcement, the Hitchcock Center has secured an astounding $5,670,287 of that original goal.

“The generous support we have received from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has allowed us to realize a vision that we thought was just a dream four years ago,” said Nancy Eddy, Hitchcock Center’s Building for the Future Campaign Chair and board member. “We are grateful for our state leaders who take such bold action to promote greater environmental sustainability and who readily recognize the critical role environmental education plays towards that goal.”

For such a small organization, it has not been an easy task to raise the kind of funding required for this project. Just four years ago, the Hitchcock Center had an operating budget of $330,000, 30% or close to $100,000 of which came from charitable contributions. They decided to raise 58 times that amount for their Building for the Future capital campaign, in just 4 years, a tall order.

“We thought very hard about what we could or couldn’t do. We knew we needed to expand our facility after experiencing tremendous growth over the 40 years at our current site and we knew that we needed to step up our environmental leadership with a building that would strengthen and amplify our mission,” said Jaana Cutson, Hitchcock Center Board President. “This is an incredible story of the little engine that could. When we first announced our original campaign goal of $5.8M, many were skeptical. When we said we were taking the Living Building Challenge, an extremely complex design, build and certification process that, up until now, has only been taken by much larger institutions, we were told it would be nearly impossible, but look how far we have come today!”

Now closing in on the last $130,000 remaining toward its original $5.8M goal, the Hitchcock Center is asking its community to step up once again and to raise an additional $900,000 to support important outdoor classroom spaces, accessible trails, and new exhibits that will strengthen engaging, interactive, and experiential learning opportunities for thousands of visitors and program participants each year.

The enhanced campaign goal of $6.7M will render the Center’s new living building into a unique teaching tool that will create sensory-rich spaces in which messages are felt as much as they are learned. “Our goal is to capture the interpretive potential of the Hitchcock Center’s collections, its outdoor spaces and built environment as portals into knowledge, feelings, and actions,” said Sam Batchelor, Project Architect, designLAB architects.

Currently, the Center serves over 8,000 children, youth and adults each year, 30% of whom are from low-income households. The Hitchcock Center’s new environmental education center plans to open its door to the public in September 2016. In the next three years, the Center expects to increase program participation by 40%, Center visitors by 200%, and the number of low-income people served by 50%. It will continue fundraising for it’s enhanced $6.7M Building for the Future campaign goal an additional year to complete its plans to render the center into a world-class environmental learning destination.

The Hitchcock Center is calling on the local community now to help it raise the last hard dollars needed to complete its campaign – the last $1M. “We are so grateful for the generous support we have received from our community and state to date. Please help us create this powerful new learning center that will promote imagination, observation and creative learning opportunities for people thirsting for more knowledge, greater connection to nature, and pathways to a more restorative relationship with nature.” said Julie Johnson, Hitchcock Center’s Executive Director. For more information about the Hitchcock Center for the Environment and its Building for the Future campaign, visit our website.

Press release available here.

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