How To Organize A Cleanup Workshop

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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.


Alice Ferguson Foundation Recognized with 2017 Green Business of the Year Award

October 16th, 2017

On Friday, October 6, the Alice Ferguson Foundation was recognized by the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce as the 2017 Green Business of the Year at its annual Excellence in Business Awards Gala. The award recognizes outstanding achievement in the county and pays tribute to organizations that have demonstrated measurable growth, community involvement, support and commitment to sustainability.


“We are honored to receive such a prestigious award. Since our founding more than 60 year ago, we’ve brought environmental education to life for more than half a million students around our region,” said Lori Arguelles, Alice Ferguson Foundation’s president and CEO. “In the last decade and as a testament to our founding principles, we have invested in upgrading and modernizing our campus to make it one of world’s greenest, most energy efficient building complexes in the world.”


The Foundation’s environmental campus includes the net-zero water, net-zero energy, and carbon neutral Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Environmental Center, a Living Building Challenge certified project that meets the world’s most stringent green building requirements. The Cafritz Environmental Center, which hosts thousands of students each year, is only the 13th project in the world to achieve full Living Building Challenge certification.

The Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce is an alliance of more than 900 businesses, representing over 300,000 employees, making it one of the largest chambers in the state of Maryland and the Washington Metropolitan region. Their annual gala honors businesses and organizations that go above and beyond with noteworthy contributions to their respective fields, and which help maximize the economic potential of the county as a whole.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation is a nonprofit located in Accokeek, Maryland. The Foundation’s educational programs unite students, educators, park rangers, communities, regional organizations, and government agencies throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to promote the environmental sustainability of the Potomac River watershed.

AFF’s Living Building Featured on CTV

May 26th, 2016

Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Sustainable Building Receives Awards and Accolades

April 29th, 2016

State-of-the-art “green” building listed as one of Washington Business Journal’s Top 25 Best Real Estate Deals for 2015; achieves LEED Platinum certification

AFF award pic2On April 28, 2016, the Washington Business Journal recognized the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s education building as one of the Top 25 Best Real Estate Deals of 2015 at the Journal’s annual awards dinner. The Foundation’s 4,200 sq. ft. carbon neutral, net-zero energy, net-zero water education building opened last fall. Designed to be one of the most energy efficient green buildings in the world, the building also received LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification—the highest LEED certification possible.

“This building reflects our guiding principles: education, inspiration and innovation,” says Alice Ferguson Foundation Executive Director Lori Arguelles. “We are thrilled to receive this recognition from the Washington Business Journal as well as to achieve LEED Platinum status. This building is an excellent addition to our campus—it’s more than just a structure; it’s a teaching tool to help students have an even more meaningful experience connecting with and understanding both the natural and the built world.”

The Alice Ferguson Foundation was the only nonprofit organization to be recognized in the cadre of 24 other projects in the Washington D.C. metro area at the Washington Business Journal’s event. The new education building, which opened last October, features innovative technologies that will regenerate, not deplete, its surroundings as well as help inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.

farmIn addition to the award recognition, the Foundation also received notification this week that the building has achieved LEED® Platinum certification. This highest level of LEED certification requires that a building achieve 80 out of 110 points—the day-use education building passed with flying colors with a score of 86 points. It also scored 100 percent of available points in several impact categories, including Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, and Indoor Environmental Quality.

For more than 60 years, the Alice Ferguson Foundation has been a premier provider of transformative, environmental education programs for approximately 500,000 students in the Washington D.C. area at their location on the shores of the Potomac River. The Foundation’s 330-acre working farm, Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek, Maryland, helps to educate visitors of all ages about the natural world, inspiring them to recognize their role in protecting it and seeking innovative ways to solve environmental challenges.

When it came time to draw-up plans to renovate and refresh the educational campus in 2006, the Foundation decided to pursue not only the highest LEED certification possible, but also to meet the strict requirements of the Living Building Challenge.

“Our next goal is to achieve Living Building Challenge certification—the most rigorous set of energy efficiency, green building standards in the world today,” adds Arguelles. “To be fully certified, living buildings must prove that they are net-zero energy and water, and carbon neutral by operating for a full year and documenting those results…and we are on track.”
Currently there are only eight fully certified Living Building projects in the world.

This building is the first in a complex of buildings being developed by AFF. Rather than working independently, the AFF buildings are designed to ultimately work together (as a “living system”) to maintain the net-zero energy and water efficiency targets.

The building is constructed using non-toxic materials. It uses geothermal and solar energy for heating and cooling, treats wastewater and storm water on site and reuses greywater (gently used water) for landscape irrigation.

“The new building will dramatically improve our ability to educate and inspire students, teachers, and the community,” says the Foundation’s Board Chair Dan Jackson. “It brings together art, science, technology, math, engineering and the environment. Educational information throughout the structure illustrates the lessons learned from using less energy and natural resources. For example, through technology and engineering, our campus will reduce 168 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually—the equivalent of removing 47 cars from the road.”

Support for the project has come from the state of Maryland and Prince George’s County, and many private and nonprofit organizations—Unilever, Old Line Bank, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Philip L. Graham Fund, James Hardie/Hardiplank, Kresge Foundation, the Veverka Family Foundation, the Solar Schools Foundation—as well as numerous individual donors.

Consilience LLC led the project development as AFF’s Owner’s Representative, Re:Vision Architecture led the project design and Facchina Construction Company served as the general contractor.
The Alice Ferguson Foundation was established in 1954 as a non-profit organization chartered in the state of Maryland. The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s educational programs unite students, educators, park rangers, communities, regional organizations, and government agencies throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to promote the environmental sustainability of the Potomac River watershed.

Going Green is Good for Business!

April 29th, 2016

AFF award pic2Ten years ago, the Alice Ferguson Foundation began the design process for a 4,200 sq. ft. carbon neutral, net-zero energy, net-zero water education building. Yesterday, this state-of-the-art “green” education building was listed as one of Washington Business Journal’s Top 25 Best Real Estate Deals for 2015. The only nonprofit in attendance, we were recognized in the cadre of 24 other projects in the Washington D.C. metro area.

Our day-use education building is on track to meet strict certification requirements for the Living Building Challenge. Currently, only eight Living Building projects in the world are certified. To be fully certified, living buildings must prove that they are net-zero energy and water, and carbon neutral by operating for a full year and documenting those results…and we are on track.

farmWhen this project began there were no certified Living Buildings in existence, which meant we were entering unchartered territory. We overcame many hurdles and challenges to make the building a reality. The entire process took ten years—we finished construction last October and the final product was worth the wait!

The “Grass” educational building, as it is nicknamed for its plant-like ability to absorb the energy of the sun, is located at the edge of a south-facing field. Its roof spreads out like wings to capture the sun’s energy and a network of 20 geothermal wells, located in the grassy field in front of the building, help ensure we use this power most efficiently. These wells, along with solar panels on the roof, provide all of the renewable energy needed to power the building.

Living Buildings are designed to function like species in an ecosystem and mimic the beauty, resourcefulness and efficiency of nature. They are designed to regenerate—not deplete— their surroundings.

The building works in harmony with nature, aligning with the Challenge’s seven performance categories, which include:

  • Restoring a healthy local ecosystem
  • Sourcing all its water from rainfall
  • Harvesting all its energy from renewable sources
  • Choosing non-toxic materials
  • Supporting a just, equitable world
  • Maximizing physical and psychological health of guests
  • Celebrating beauty, inspiring transformative change through design

Once certified, AFF will join an elite group of leaders dedicated to the newest in sustainable technologies and educating the next generation of environmental stewards. We are honored to have been featured in Washington Business Journal’s list, and invite you to learn more about this innovative project.

Steny Hoyer Tours AFF’s Living Building

March 24th, 2016

Staff of AFF were delighted to welcome Congressman Steny Hoyer for a visit and to tour our new state-of-the-art Living Building. As a tireless leader and protector of natural resources, the House Democratic Whip has supported every major piece of environmental legislation while in Congress. Congressman Hoyer learned about the Living Building Challenge, the green building standard in which AFF’s new educational building was constructed and how we will use a computer dashboard to gauge our net zero water and energy usage as we move toward full certification.

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Flora, Fauna, and…Fire

February 5th, 2016

By Karen Jensen Miles

Breezeway Fireplace with concretre stainedWhen students and other visitors visit Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, they are immediately struck by a sense that they are in the midst of something special. First, the land itself is a widely varied mix of habitats, each of which has its own beauty as evidenced by the senses that are awakened—lichens on the trees, the raucous chatter of the red-headed woodpecker, or the aroma of the many habitat components.

To add to this aura, the Grass Building has an outdoor fireplace and a wood-burning stove in the large common room. The fireplace is strategically placed in the breezeway, which is the main entrance to the building. The north end of the breezeway frames a real-life painting of treetops and distant fields that is enchanting. The breeze caresses one’s body as it accelerates through the passageway. Some of the gray-brown stones that face the fireplace have moss and lichens growing on them and the many shapes are pleasing to the eye. There are two large openings that face the firebox itself. These store firewood that is procured at the Farm from fallen trees and split into long triangles of differing sizes. When the openings are full of the wood, they are interesting to look at as well. White and red oak; red maple; beech; tulip poplar; and sycamore all have characteristic colors and textures that cause one to reflect on their beauty. There is a raised hearth where persons wanting to feel the radiant heat from the flames may sit.

Visitors that come to the farm frequently gather ‘round a roaring fire to hear ghost stories such as the one about the ‘goat man’ that wanders at night (great fun for grade schoolers) and roast marshmallows and hotdogs on sticks over the fire. These experiences promote a sense of inclusivity, contentment, and the creation of lifelong memories for so many who have never had an experience like this and may never have again. We frequently hear tales of adults who, as children, came to the farm and one of the highlights was the campfire.

The ceramic wood-burning stove in the common room evokes a sense of warmth even when there isn’t a fire set in it. All year long, people remark about how nice it would be to feel the heat radiating from it. There is something primeval about man’s fascination with flames and how they can mesmerize and allow persons close by to dream and meditate. These things are not measurable and there are no rubrics, but they are very real.

Neither the fireplace nor the woodstove will be used to heat unless there is a prolonged power outage, but the value they add to this project and the experience for all who visit is undeniable.

Living Building Featured in Energy & Infrastructure Article

February 4th, 2016

Read the Solar Case Study: Living Learning Center in the February 2016 issue of Energy & Infrastructure magazine.

AFF’s Net Zero Energy Education Building Featured on

December 30th, 2015

Read the article on