Posts Tagged ‘Living Building’

Sharing Green Energy

January 24th, 2018

Sharing Green Energy

Did you know that just down the hill from the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s historic home and office, the Foundation’s educational center is one of the greenest buildings in the world? As of this year, our community remains just one of just 15 places in the world to have a Living Building helping to power their neighborhood. 

The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Environmental Education Center at the Alice Ferguson Foundation is just one of seven such buildings on the East Coast.


One of the most obvious “green” elements of our building is visible almost as soon as you turn into the campus. The environmental center’s roof is covered with solar panels. This past year, these panels, along with our geothermal wells and thick insulation, combined to generate 25% more electricity than we used. This excess energy, generated from the sun, and enhanced and made more efficient through our geothermal system, was sent back into the grid.


We’ve invested more than a decade in understanding, exploring and now reaping the benefits of an investment in green buildings and technology.

Learn more about the building here.


Embracing the Living Building Challenge

November 19th, 2015

By Karen Jensen Miles

Sponsored by the United States Green Building Council, Greenbuild is the world’s largest conferenceLiving Building and expo dedicated to green building. The green building community gathers annually to share ideals and mutual passion. The conference features uplifting speakers, unparalled networking opportunities, showcases, LEED workshops and tours of green buildings in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Greenbuild offers a place for thousands to gather and renew their commitment to the green movement.

This year, Greenbuild is hosted by the National Capital Region chapter. The Alice Ferguson Foundation is honored to have been chosen as the site for two of the carefully vetted tours. On Monday, November 16th, we were the last stop on a day long tour entitled ‘River Ride Along the Watershed’, where attendees visited our new education campus that contains the region’s first ‘Living Building’. Attendees learned how this site embraces the principles of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), while also continuing their day of education about the perils threatening, and opportunities arising, for the area’s watershed. The presenters discussed the foundation’s mission and history and why it was important for our organization to embrace the LBC; an introduction to the LBC; and an overview of the building and the site’s water systems that included existing site conditions, project priorities, supply water, waste water and stormwater. Attendees also participated in an interactive, educational lesson called ‘Who Polluted the Potomac?’ that highlights the types of activities that all of us do that impacts our natural waterways. They also walked the site to see the ‘flow’ of water on the site.

On Friday, November 20th, a technical tour comprised of about 50 attendees and ten presenters will arrive at Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center to learn about the Living Building Challenge (LBC) in the context of our project. There will be information about AFF as a whole; the project description and development to include: design process, charrette, construction process; rainwater and the site; water and energy; materials used; and LBC lessons learned. Our LBC project is being monitored carefully by the ‘green’ world of architects, engineers, planners, contractors and governmental agencies. We are very excited to be under the microscope since our experiences will aid others as they determine the various routes and responsibilities they want to undertake in the future.

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

October 31st, 2013

By Karen Miles, Land Use/ Facilities Manager

Backfillingaround FOundationLots of things to report on in this Blogpost! Decisions, decisions, decisions. The project architects have given the AFF staff materials and color options for the floors, walls, exterior siding, roofing, windows and (wait for it) bathroom stalls. So many decisions; but we think that what we finally came up with will be wonderful here at Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center. We kept in mind the natural color palette for our area. Now, we just have to wait for the project to come along to the point where they can be seen.

Have you ever heard of FSC certified lumber? It stands for Forestry Stewardship Council Certification and is the best indicator in the United States that the wood used for construction is harvested sustainably. Responsible forest management includes:

  • Protecting fragile ecosystems
  • Respecting native cultures and economies
  • Preventing illegal logging
  • Restricting clear-cutting (removing all trees in a tract) and pesticide use
  • Monitoring the “chain of custody,” or ensuring that the wood in the product you’re looking at really came from the forest that was certified.

All of the lumber in a Living Building must be FSC certified and come from local sources, if possible.

We are working with the local electric energy provider, SMECO, to ensure that their electric lines can handle the excess power that is generated by the solar arrays that will be installed on-site. As luck would have it, they are in the process of installing a three phase line in the area and will be more than adequate for this purpose. Modifications in engineering plans have been made for the specified equipment to be changed from single phase to three phase lines.

ReadyingSlab The concrete pouring is coming to a close next week with the slab-on-grade pour. This means the flooring for the kitchen and mechanical equipment rooms will be poured. The kitchen will have a colorant (La Crescenta Brown) used. The waterproofing has been applied to the exterior underground walls and backfilling is in process. For the first time in about six months, one can see the natural lay of the land again.

Once the floors have been poured, the next steps are installation of the expanded metal trusses and Glulam beams (laminated wood). We will begin to see the building take shape more with each addition. It is very exciting to be a continuing part of this process. Stay tuned for the next installment.