Kohler Environmental Center – Part 1
The KEC is part of the illustrious Choate Rosemary Hall Campus in Wallingford, Connecticut. This LEED Platinum Certified facility, both residential and academic, was designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects and the engineering team of Kohler Ronan, LLC.
I arrived a day early and met with the school’s associate director of facilities to eliminate rainy weather concerns forecast for the following day. He gave early access to the facility so I could capture the building while accentuated by a vibrant sky at dusk. First, David walked me through the state-of the art research greenhouse, past paneling salvaged from Vermont sugar maple trees that line the corridors, and under the cupola that sits atop the main entrance. The cupola’s large windows can be opened to let the heat and escape after the building heats up.
Next we stepped outside the back entrance to see the ground mounted 1,056 panel photovoltaic solar array installed off east main street. The 250-kilowatt system is the work horse that gives the facility the capacity to be energy-neutral. This service entrance is also where students will catch there biodiesel bus when they travel back and forth between the main campus, another eco-friendly aspect to learning and living at KEC. Once back inside, I requested to see the mechanical spaces in the basement.
Dusk arrived quickly and we headed back to the central courtyard. Natural light was diminishing steadily and the building’s energy efficient interior lights turned on. Standing next to the greenhouse again, I took notice of rain chains strung down from its roof. A small pool below reflected the harvested rainwater for use in greenhouse irrigation. But, golden hour had arrived and my camera and I went back to doing our favorite thing.
The reflections cast in the adjacent Center’s large windows, which face south and echo its sustainable design through utilizing a natural energy source for light and heat, also mirror Choate’s state-of the art research greenhouse.