One of World’s Only ‘Living Buildings’ Comes to Maryland: Dignitaries Help Break Ground for World Class Environmental Education Center


(Accokeek, MD) Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III and other dignitaries will help break ground today on one of the world’s greenest, most energy efficient buildings — and the region’s FIRST ‘Living Building.’   The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s (AFF) Potomac Watershed Study Center will embrace the principles of the Living Building Challenge©, making it among the most innovative and environmentally sustainable building projects in the world. Upon completion, the net-zero water, net-zero energy, and carbon neutral Center will take green buildings to a new level. Currently there are only three certified ‘Living Buildings’ in the world.  

“As we break ground on our region’s first ‘Living Building,’ we are once again proving that Maryland and Prince George’s County are on the cutting edge of innovation and conservation,” said Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. “By making a $5.1 million investment to build this important educational center to help Marylanders acquire the skills necessary for the 21st century jobs of the future, we aren’t just creating a greener future for our planet, we’re creating new career opportunities for Maryland’s workers.”

The Center will consist of a lodge providing overnight accommodations for students, a day-use education building, two sleeping cabins and an ADA-accessible wetlands boardwalk. Energy for the facilities will be generated from photoelectric and solar thermal arrays and geothermal wells. Rainwater will be collected and purified for use throughout the Center. Composting toilets, a zero-waste program and a sustainable landscape will minimize outputs. All systems will be integrated, transparent teaching tools that inspire students and visitors to lessen their impact on the environment.

“Prince George’s County has a wide range of many wonderful points of interest and the addition of the ‘Living Building,’ one of few in the world, adds to the rich legacy of the Alice Ferguson Foundation and is certainly a proud and historic achievement for our county and country,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III.  “As a strong proponent of education, what better way to teach our children than through a holistic looking glass filled with nature’s raw and natural beauty, the importance and value of our environment combined with the integral role each of them will contribute as stewards.”

In keeping with the Foundation’s mission, these high performance green buildings will work in harmony with nature, by making use of the sun and rain to achieve net-zero energy, net-zero water and carbon-neutral facilities. The Study Center will become an integral part of AFF’s Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center, where the Foundation has been fostering the next generation of environmental stewards for nearly six decades.

“The Center will put Prince George’s County and the State of Maryland at the forefront of green building innovation,” said AFF Board President Mike Herman. “Most importantly, it will demonstrate to anyone interested in the possibility of living in harmony with the world around us that the materials and technologies needed to achieve such a balance already exist and are possible to achieve.”

Support for the $15.7 million effort has been broad-based with $3 million from Prince George’s County, and a pledge of $5.1 million over three years from the State of Maryland. Private sector contributions from individuals and foundations have also played an integral role. “Today, I am pleased to announce our first corporate donation for this important effort,” said AFF Executive Director Lori Arguelles. “Old Line Bank has been a leader in building and strengthening our community for decades and they are once again exhibiting their leadership by pledging $75,000 to this vital and innovative building project.”

“As a bank that truly cares about the communities we serve, we look for opportunities to be value- added, and that’s what inspired us to become involved with the Potomac Watershed Study Center,” said James W. Cornelsen, President and Chief Executive Officer of Old Line Bank. “Multiple generations of southern Maryland families have benefited from their experiences at the Foundation’s Hard Bargain Farm and we look forward to ensuring that future generations will have an invaluable opportunity to learn and care for our environment through the creation of the Potomac Watershed Study Center.”

Additional support for the project has come from the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, Mae Fauth Trust, Solar Schools Foundation, Unilever, and many generous individuals.

Each year nearly 5,000 students participate in environmental education programs at the Foundation’s Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center with another 6,000 students taking part in student-led, investigative field studies in national and state parks in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. In conjunction with these efforts, the Foundation’s Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative seeks systemic solutions to the persistent problem of trash.

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. AFF operates the Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center—a 330-acre working farm located on the shorelines of the Potomac River south of Washington, D.C.  Learn more at


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