State-of-the-Art Environmental Education Center Opens in Maryland
Thousands of students from around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area will begin using one of the world’s greenest, most energy efficient buildings today as the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) unveils its new education building at its Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center. The net zero energy, net zero water, and carbon neutral structure is designed to meet the Living Building Challenge™, the most stringent set of green building standards. Only seven buildings worldwide have been certified through this rigorous regimen, which also requires strict adherence to use of non-toxic materials in building construction.
The ribbon cutting for the new building coincides with the return of students to the Foundation’s education campus, and featured remarks from U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD); Maryland State Senate President Mike Miller; Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III; Prince George’s County Council Chairman Mel Franklin; Maryland State Senator Anthony Muse (District 26); Governor Larry Hogan’s Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Richard; National Park Service-National Capital Region Director Bob Vogel; and AFF program alumni Owen and Ella Zeigler.
“The Alice Ferguson Foundation’s ‘Hard Bargain Farm’ has provided an incredible backdrop for a wide variety of educational programs for many years. Its new facilities will allow the Foundation to expand its future reach by exposing generations of students to really fascinating hands-on learning opportunities,” said Senator Cardin. “Not long ago, carbon-neutral buildings made completely of non-toxic materials that use net zero energy and water were the stuff of science fiction, but today are a reality. Visionary projects like these will help show us the way out of the climate change crisis we are continuing to create for ourselves. I couldn’t be happier to have this monument to sustainability in Maryland or to know that thousands of students will have the chance to learn vital lessons here in the future.”
The Foundation’s curriculum, which examines biodiversity, adaptation, climate resiliency, and the cycles of nature, will get a boost from this state-of-the-art building as it demonstrates the sustainable use of natural resources and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) concepts embodied therein.
“For the past half a century, Prince George’s County has been very fortunate to have an organization like the Alice Ferguson Foundation serving our citizens by promoting environmental sustainability. Before ‘sustainability’ became a buzz word, this environmental champion engaged generations of County residents and regional students at its environmental learning center, the Hard Bargain Farm,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III. “With today’s ribbon cutting of this unique state-of-the-art Environmental Learning Center, the Alice Ferguson Foundation and Prince George’s County will be demonstrating to the world the newest in sustainable technologies and simultaneously educating the next generation of incredible environmental stewards.”
Students of all ages will be challenged to problem solve, particularly around the concepts of water, energy, and waste. An internet-based dashboard providing real time building performance and green features engages students and encourages their collaboration around sustainability goals.
“During my field study at the farm I learned to better respect my environment,” said Owen Zeigler, a former 5th grade program participant. Currently,
an eighth grader at William H. Farquhar Middle School, Owen remarked, “I had heard about this field trip from other kids at school and couldn’t wait to come here. It was an amazing experience! I learned the value of protecting our environment and reducing our carbon footprint.”
“The Living Building Challenge offers an important opportunity to build a bridge between the built environment and the natural world,” said Alice Ferguson Foundation Executive Director, Lori Arguelles. “Our goal is to regenerate the surrounding environment as we construct groundbreaking buildings that serve as innovative teaching tools integral to our STEM, ecological, and agricultural focused education programs.”
Support for the project has come from the State of Maryland, the Maryland Energy Administration, Prince George’s County, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the Maryland Energy Administration, Kresge Foundation, Unilever, Philip L. Graham Fund, Old Line Bank, James Hardie/Hardiplank, the Veverka Family Foundation, the Solar Schools Foundation and numerous individual donors. Re:Vision Architecture led the project design team and Facchina Construction Company has served as the general contractor.
“Constructing smarter, more efficiently designed buildings is not just the right thing to do—it’s good for business,” said Charles McPherson, President and CEO of the Facchina Construction Company. “We are proud to be a partner in this groundbreaking effort. We are confident that the Living Building Challenge will have far-reaching impacts on the future of the construction industry.”