Some schools build environmentally responsible buildings; some schools teach environmental responsibility. At Choate Rosemary Hall, the Kohler Environmental Center, a laboratory for living, brings these two objectives together. The new LEED Platinum 31,325-square-foot academic and residential facility, designed to achieve net-zero energy usage, accommodates cohorts of up to 20 students for a total-immersion environmental living experience. As students live at the center and take their classes and meals there, the building offers them control of their own environment; feedback from the building's monitoring systems enables them to teach themselves important lessons about how to live sustainably and responsibly.
The Kohler Environmental Center is approached by a footpath over a wooded wetland ravine, leading to a central, south-facing courtyard. A cloister lining the courtyard links the Kohler Center's program functions—14 dormitory rooms, faculty apartments, common spaces, classrooms, laboratories, and a state-of-the-art research greenhouse. The building's materials reflect its rustic nature—native stone walls, stained cedar trim, and fiber cement plank siding.
Set in the midst of 268 acres of meadows, agricultural fields, second-growth forest, and wetlands, the Kohler Center allows students to learn from the site's exceptional biodiversity and range of habitats. Another goal of the Center is to teach environmental stewardship through sustainable design. 100% of the building's annual energy needs is provided by a 294-kilowatt photovoltaic array, roof-mounted thermal solar panels, and waste cooking oil. A highly-efficient building envelope, developed daylight harvesting strategy, and careful solar orientation optimizes building performance, while monitoring systems encourage students to compete with each other to minimize their own energy consumption.