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Living Building Inspires at Hampshire College

There is something really cool happening at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Known for challenging conventional wisdom while producing innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs, the College is now leading the way on sustainability. 

ISC Board member and Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash is a visionary who wants to make the college a beacon for social justice, environmental responsibility, and leadership. The latest example is the opening of a new “living building” at the very heart of the campus. Jonathan and Ellie Lash gave us a tour of the 17,000-sf R.W. Kern Center last weekend. The building is completely self-sufficient (water, energy, waste) and the vast majority of its materials are sourced locally adding value to the surrounding economy. Hampshire alumni and students were involved in designing, constructing, and funding the building. The building, which houses the admissions office, classrooms, and a café, is a laboratory for students who monitor the many innovative systems.

As far as I know, the Bullitt Foundation in Seattle, Washington built the first truly living building. These models prove what’s possible and inspire on so many levels. For example, the corporate giant GE recently visited Hampshire College to gather lessons for its new headquarters in Boston.

It is easy to get discouraged when you contemplate the slowness of national and international action on resource efficiency and climate change. Not so at the local level, where there are many examples that give hope and inspire optimism.

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