Combating Climate Change One Building at a Time

June 5th, 2017

Maryland Education Center Becomes 13th Project in the World to Achieve Full Living Building™ Challenge Certification

 

ACCOKEEK, Md. – The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s (AFF) environmental education center received full Living Building Challenge™ certification today, making it the greenest, most energy efficient building in Maryland. As just the 13th project in the world to achieve this elite certification,  AFF’s  Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Environmental Center has successfully achieved what is widely regarded as the world’s most rigorous green building performance standard. Thousands of students from around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area use the Cafritz Environmental Center each year as part of a world-class hands-on science and environmental curriculum.


The building produces more energy than it uses in a year and also collects and treats water on site. It is constructed using non-toxic materials; more than two-thirds of which were manufactured within 500 miles of the site. The building uses geothermal and solar energy for heating and cooling, treats wastewater and stormwater on site and reuses greywater for landscape irrigation. Through this technology and engineering, the campus will reduce 120 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually — the equivalent of removing more than 25 cars from the road.

“The work of the Foundation helps enhance and support the classroom instruction our kids receive and the result is clear: well-rounded and better educated students,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III. “I am proud that Prince George’s County has supported the Foundation in the Living Building Challenge, contributing $3.9 million through our capital budget.  We see the clear benefits that a state-of-the-art learning center will bring—not only to our students but also to our growing reputation as a mecca for green buildings, green businesses and green technology.”

“At a time when local and regional actions to combat climate change are more important than ever, we are so proud to receive this world-renowned certification,” said Alice Ferguson Foundation Executive Director Lori Arguelles. “This structure is the first of two planned green buildings to be constructed on our environmental campus and  a model of what can be done, right here in Prince George’s County, when technology and innovation come together to create  positive environmental impact, local jobs, and a space to teach and inspire our children.”

To qualify for full certification by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), the Center proved that it operated at net-zero energy and net-zero water use for a full year, was carbon neutral, used construction materials that are non-toxic and non-polluting and met a number of other environmental and social criteria. Achieving this set of standards makes Cafritz Environmental Center a national and international model for green building techniques, sustainable materials, energy efficiency and water use.

Kathleen Smith, International Living Future Institute Vice President, Living Building Challenge, presented AFF with the prestigious certification award. “Living Buildings are changing the face of construction for the future, and this Center is leading the way at a critical time,” said Smith. “Organizations like the Alice Ferguson Foundation that dare to reach new heights are the key to generating green jobs, inspiring future environmental stewards, reversing our carbon footprint and creating a truly sustainable future.”

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

“The Cafritz Foundation is committed to building a stronger community for residents of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and this Center is at the heart of how we strive to improve lives,” said Calvin Cafritz, President and CEO. “We are honored to contribute to this project, a game-changing teaching tool for our kids and a testament to the power of using innovation and green technology to create jobs, while protecting our planet.”

Consilience LLC led the project development, Re:Vision Architecture led the project design and Facchina Construction Company served as the general contractor.

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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.

Spring Farm Festival: A Day for the Entire Family

May 8th, 2017

This Saturday, the Alice Ferguson Foundation opened its doors to families and community members for this year’s Hard Bargain Farm’s Spring Farm Festival. Having started as a plant sale more than three decades ago, the Spring Farm Festival has grown into a family event. Visitors had the opportunity to meet the farm’s barnyard animals, watch live blacksmith demonstration, learn about submarine racing, and enjoy hay rides, art and crafts, and live music.  

Musical performances – from folk to rock and everything in between – have long been a tradition at Spring Farm Festival. This year, our live music stage featured Ryan Thompson, NCB, Good Gravy, and Lynn Hollyfield. Kids’ activities this year included face painting, a critter touch tank, an interactive rain runoff demonstration, Junior Ranger Activities by park rangers from Fort Washington National Park, crafts and art, and more. 

    

All proceeds from the event and plant sale go towards supporting the Foundation’s core programs, which include environmental education programs that serve more than 10,000 students each year, and litter and trash prevention and education outreach efforts across Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation encourages connections between people, the natural environment, farming and the cultural heritage of the Potomac River Watershed, which lead to personal environmental responsibility.

World Renowned Explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau meets with Students from Maryland’s First Ocean Guardian School to “Talk Trash”

April 26th, 2017

The National Mall, Washington, DC – World renowned explorer, environmentalist, film producer and educator Jean-Michel Cousteau met with a class of Ocean Guardians from North Point High School and their award-winning teacher Lolita Kiorpes at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Together, they delved into the sources and impacts of trash in our communities and on our waterways. The event, which came just a few days after International Earth Day, was a part of Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Bridging The Watershed initiative, a program to inspire personal connections with the natural world, lifelong civic engagement, and environmental stewardship through hands-on curriculum-based outdoor studies in national parks and public lands.

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The group of twenty students from Charles County used the Foundation’s Talking Trash activities as the frame for their interactive class with Cousteau, who shared his own experience with trash and marine debris from a global perspective. Students investigated the amount of time it takes for trash to decompose and the impact of trash and runoff on the nation’s waterways through the interactive Trash Timeline and Who Polluted the Potomac activities, then finished the day by assisting park rangers by picking up trash.

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In 2016, Kiorpes and her students were the first National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ocean Guardian School in Maryland. An initiative of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Sanctuaries, the Ocean Guardian programs encourage students to explore their natural surroundings to form a sense of personal connection to the ocean and the watersheds in which they live.

 

The Alice Ferguson Foundation
The Foundation connects people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices, and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship, and advocacy. Bridging The Watershed is one of the Foundation’s three flagship programs that partners with the National Park Service and area schools, to promote student learning, personal connections with the natural world, lifelong civic engagement, and environmental stewardship through hands-on curriculum-based outdoor studies in national parks and public lands.

Alice Ferguson Foundation Kicks Off Annual Cleanup

April 12th, 2017

Thousands of residents come together for the 29th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup

On April 8, thousands of residents came out to kick off the 29th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup by picking up trash and litter in their communities. Led by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, this month-long effort is one of the largest regional events of its kind, covering Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, and bringing together hundreds of community organizations.

“The event is transformative for citizens and community leaders alike,” said Lori Arguelles, Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Executive Director. “Last year, we saw nearly 10,000 volunteers collect more than 300,000 pounds of trash at 265 sites. It’s an honor and a privilege to thank all of our partners and volunteers for their efforts and commitment to making the places we live, work and play healthy, clean and free of trash.”

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Cleanups will continue across the region throughout the month of April. A wide range of litter has been sighted and removed so far – including plastic bags, tires, cigarettes, bicycles, car parts and more. Anyone who is interested in participating in the Cleanup this month is invited to visit PotomacCleanup.org to find a cleanup site near them, or to host their own.

“The numbers are still coming in, but just on April 8, volunteers collected hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash,” said Laura Cattell Noll, program lead for Alice Ferguson Foundation Trash Free Potomac Initiative. “In the almost three decades that we’ve been organizing this cleanup, we have seen 145,000 volunteers remove 7 million pounds of trash – that’s the equivalent weight of 250 school buses!”

The annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is one of many of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s programs designed to promote environmental sustainability in the region and connect people to their local watershed. The Foundation’s Regional Litter Prevention Campaign empowers communities to “Take Control, Take Care of Your Trash,” and led to a 30% reduction in observable littering behavior in the targeted District of Columbia neighborhoods between 2013 and 2015. Another program, Trash Free Schools, engages more than 2,000 students annually from more than 20 schools throughout the DC metro region.

Several hundred organizations and groups partner in the Cleanup each year, including Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Anacostia Watershed Society, C&O Canal Association, Charles County Public Works, City of Alexandria, DC Department of Energy and Environment, Fairfax County Government Center, Friends of Accotink Creek, Friends of Little Hunting Creek, Friends of Noyes Park, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, Joint Base Andrews, Montgomery County Parks and Planning, National Park Service, Path to Greatness, the Potomac Conservancy, Prince George’s County, Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Reston Association, Rock Creek Conservancy, Rock Creek Nature Center, and many others.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation connects people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices, and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship, and advocacy.  Learn more at fergusonfoundation.org

Premiere Soil Scientists, Maryland Policymakers, Discuss Impact of Soil Health on Agriculture, Water Quality, and Climate

February 28th, 2017

Annapolis MD – The Alice Ferguson Foundation, in collaboration with The Carbon Underground, convened more than one hundred soil scientists, farmers, policymakers and nonprofit leaders for a one-day conference on the role of soil health in agriculture, the economy, water quality, and climate.

The presentations featured both local Maryland’s soil policies and practices, and national conversation on the impact of soil health on farm production, pollution, and climate.

“Soil health a topic of incredible importance on both the national stage, and right here in Maryland,” said Lori Arguelles, Alice Ferguson Foundation Executive Director. “With Maryland’s number one industry being agriculture, the state’s future is inextricably linked to the ability of our farmlands and soil to produce in a sustainable and regenerative way.”

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The event included speakers from the Maryland State Senate, Maryland Department of Agriculture, The Department of Natural Resource, Maryland’s Department of the Environment, the USDA, The Rodale Institute, The Carbon Underground, and more.

Speakers discussed the science and practice behind new regenerative practices for managing soil healthy farms, ranches, natural wetlands and grasslands, and the impact of such techniques on production, profitability and the carbon cycle.

Presentations from the conference are available online and can be watched here.

Digging Deeper: The Role of Healthy Soil in Maryland’s Agriculture, Water Quality, and Climate was made possible with support from the Town Creek Foundation and the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Oktoberfest Fun, Dance, & Great Food

October 10th, 2016

Local Oktoberfest Celebrates Community & Benefits Environmental Education

Accokeek, MD – The Alice Ferguson Foundation opened its doors Saturday, October 8 for its 34th annual Oktoberfest at the Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center in Accokeek, Maryland. One of the area’s most popular fall activities, this year’s Oktoberfest featured high-spirited, authentic performances of dances from Bavaria and Austria, traditional Alpine music, delicious German food, hay wagon rides to the Potomac River, door prizes, barnyard animals and the beautiful autumn landscape of the 330-acre farm.

“The fall harvest season is always a great opportunity to connect our community back to the bounty of nature and the importance of protecting and preserving nature and our farmlands,” said Alice Ferguson Foundation Executive Director Lori Arguelles.

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In keeping with the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s commitment to innovation in the environmental field, this year’s Oktoberfest took place on the lawn of the recently completed environmental education center, the first net zero “Living Building Challenge” structure in Maryland and one of a handful of such buildings in the United States. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about this groundbreaking structure, which meets the strictest ecofriendly building standards in the world, while enjoying the festival events, featured displays and homemade baked delicacies at the country store.

“Not only is this day an opportunity to bring everyone together, but the proceeds from our annual Oktoberfest festivities all go towards our great environmental education programs,” said Arguelles. “Each year, we are proud and honored to provide hands-on, experiential learning to thousands of students throughout the Potomac Watershed.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Bavarian dance group Alt Washingtonia Schuhplattlers performed traditional dances and offered lively singalongs throughout the day. Children and the young-at-heart had the opportunity to meet and learn about the farm’s barnyard animals, squeeze apple cider with an old-fashioned cider press, and make their own unique crafts in the Foundation’s historic cabin.

Alice Ferguson Foundation Leads Cleanup of 334,952 Pounds of Trash

June 9th, 2016

Community comes together for 28th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup

Drawing from results collected on AFF’s Trash Network, nearly 10,000 volunteers collected 334,952 pounds of trash at 265 sites throughout the watershed in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia.

“I am incredibly proud of the work we were able to do this year to clean up our watershed,” said Lori Arguelles, Alice Ferguson Foundation’s Executive Director. “As the largest regional event of its kind, the Cleanup provides a transforming experience that engages citizens and community leaders and generates momentum for change. I want to thank all of our partners and volunteers for their efforts and commitment to making the Potomac Watershed healthy, clean and trash-free.”

A wide range of litter was removed during the cleanup – including 16,116 plastic bags, 1,003 tires, 14,280 cigarettes, 11 bicycles, car parts and even a bowling ball.
The announcement comes during the first annual Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, a joint effort by Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to draw national attention to the history and importance of the nation’s largest estuary. The Potomac is one of the largest rivers that flows into the Bay, and littering is a widespread problem in the area.

The annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is one of many of the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s programs designed to promote environmental sustainability in the region and connect people to the natural world. The Foundation’s Regional Litter Prevention Campaign empowers communities to “Take Control, Take Care of Your Trash,” and has reduced littering behavior by over 30 percent when comparing target areas before and after the campaign began in 2011.

“What you do every day matters more than what you do only once in a while,” said volunteer Keenan Williams from Charles County, MD.

Several hundred organizations and groups partner in the Cleanup each year, including Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Anacostia Watershed Society, C&O Canal Association, Charles County Public Works, City of Alexandria, DC Department of Energy and Environment, Fairfax County Government Center, Friends of Accotink Creek, Friends of Little Hunting Creek, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, Joint Base Andrews, Montgomery County Parks and Planning, National Park Service, Prince George’s County, Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District, Reston Association, Rock Creek Conservancy and Rock Creek Nature Center.

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.

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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