President Lash’s vision to initiate a more sustainable future for Hampshire College inspires us. Constructing a Living Building admissions center at its campus core is a clear call to action—an indication that the college is ready to lead by example and attract students dedicated to positive change. Hampshire’s ethos aligns with the tenets of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), the most rigorous environmental building design standard in the world. The LBC is a philosophy, an advocacy tool, and a certification program designed to yield new models for a sustainable future in the built environment. The LBC is made up of 20 simple but profound imperatives, each requisite for project certification. Some of these are part of design, while some of them are based on a full year of actual performance data. The LBC challenges us to stop focusing on making buildings that are merely less bad and to ask instead,What does good look like? Click To Tweet
Good design starts with net positive energy, net positive water, materials that are safe for humans, designs that favor people (not cars), healthy indoor environments, human-scaled spaces, and innate connections to nature. Responding to Hampshire’s call to action through design is the kind of work that stirs passion. This is why we became architects.
With enthusiasm, nimble creativity, critical thinking, technical expertise, and humor we began our design journey for the Kern Center in the summer of 2013. Through spirited discussion, tables full of sketches, and collaboration with the Hampshire community, we explored the far realms of the possible, stretched our imaginations, and arrived at a plan that transforms the center of their 1960’s era vehicle-dominated campus into a striking, welcoming, and ecologically rich setting for interaction, experimentation, and enjoyment. The result is a structure that will make its own energy, catch its own water, handle its own waste, and be constructed of familiar materials that are not harmful to occupants or factory workers. It is made from stone quarried from 25 miles away, has a timber frame designed to adapt to future needs, and will be full of natural light and air. The soaring roof draws people in while collecting energy and harvesting rainwater.In addition to a high level of technical performance, the project also embodies the college’s aspirational values, engaging Hampshire more directly with the land and the larger community.
We agree with the authors of the Living Building Challenge: We have but a few decades to really change the way we build buildings. A warming planet, scarcity of good water, human inequality, and the destruction of a fragile environment call us to action. The Kern Center is an ideal vehicle for Hampshire College’s response.