By The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts
The Hitchcock Center for the Environment, the Amherst-based environmental education nonprofit, held a groundbreaking ceremony on May 1 as construction officially began on its new, state-of-the-art facility.
The Community Foundation was one of many funders and supporters of the project, having provided a $50,000 grant last year in support of the design phase of the project. The 9,000 square-foot building more than doubles the current capacity and will meet the stringent requirements of a “living building.” Those standards include providing 100% of its own energy through renewable sources, providing 100% of its water through a rainwater capture and filtration system, using all nontoxic materials and sourcing its building materials locally, among other requirements.
The ambitious project has been in the works for several years, and at this point, the organization is a little over a million dollars from its total fundraising goal of $5.8 million. Construction should be completed within 14 months and it will be one of fewer than 10 buildings in the world that meet these high standards of environmental sustainability.
The unique features of the building will serve as exhibits and educational tools for the community, as visitors will be able to learn about water cycles, energy cycles and how this construction is creating sustainable systems.
Julie Johnson, Executive Director for the Hitchcock Center has been gratified to see the project reach this important milestone, “We are very excited about being a place for hope when we are faced with so many environmental challenges. I see this as a beacon of hope and change as well as an investment in our long-term future. We couldn’t have done it without the support of many organizations and individuals both within the local community and beyond.”
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