NJ School is State's First Living Building

The Willow School’s Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center is the first building in New Jersey to earn the Living Building certification and one of only 14 certified Living Buildings worldwide. At 20,000 square feet, the multiuse educational center is also the largest certified Living Building at any school in the United States.
   
Certified Living Buildings must, in part, generate all of their own energy through clean, renewable resources; capture and treat their own water through ecologically sound techniques; and incorporate only nontoxic, appropriately sourced materials. Buildings achieve full certification status after meeting 20 “imperatives” of the performance standards required by the International Living Future Institute after one full year of occupancy.
   
The Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center includes classrooms, commercial and teaching kitchens, a dining room, health and wellness spaces, a faculty room, and an energy gallery. The building produces more energy than it consumes through the 250 rooftop solar panels and employs multiple strategies to minimize water use, including low-flow fixtures, rainwater harvesting, and on-site water treatment. The adjacent school garden uses collected rainwater for irrigation and composted organic waste from the school kitchens.
   
Since it was first unveiled in April 2015, the building has been deeply integrated into the school’s curriculum. Students mathematically track energy usage and waste recovery, create and explore international cuisines in the teaching kitchen, study the scientific characteristics of plants on campus, and plant and harvest food from the garden to supplement the school’s lunch program.
              
“The Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center is a model for our students and visitors,” says Jerry Loewen, Willow’s head of school. “It demonstrates how sustainable thinking, in its broadest context, can be used to construct solutions that are in balance with our natural world and to consider the full impact of our actions. Our students are taught to think this way at Willow, and we hope they will continue to exercise and demand this type of thinking throughout their future.”

What’s happening at your school? Share your story with us at ismag@nais.org.