Students Benefit From One Of World’s Only Living Buildings

(Credit: Alice Ferguson Foundation)

The Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center in Accokeek, MD is the new home of one of the world’s greenest, most energy efficient buildings. 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 the program, which also requires strict adherence to use of non-toxic materials in building construction.

The new education building is the project of the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF), which 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. The building will benefit thousands of students from around the D.C. metropolitan area.

“The Living Building Challenge offers an important opportunity to build a bridge between the built environment and the natural world,” said AFF 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.”

Re:Vision Architecture led the project design team and Facchina Construction Company 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.”

AFF’s curriculum, which examines biodiversity, adaptation, climate resiliency, and the cycles of nature, will get a boost from the state-of-the-art building as it demonstrates the sustainable use of natural resources and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) concepts. 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.

“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 U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD). “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.”