Press Release: Hitchcock Center’s Building Receives Top Award and Global Recognition as the 23rd in the World to Achieve Living Building Status.

Amherst, MA, May 7 — Executive Director Julie Johnson of the Hitchcock Center has returned to Western Massachusetts from an international sustainability conference with a Certified Living Award that recognizes the Center’s visionary leadership in creating a building that gives more than it takes and inspires thousands of people to take action for a more sustainable future.

The award she brings to the Hitchcock Center is for the organization’s education center achieving the Living Building Challenge, considered the most rigorous standard for green building in the world. Completed in 2016, the building has spurred a significant uptick in public interest in the Center’s resilient, self-sufficient building systems that provide energy and water security for decades to come.

The international certification award, considered the most prestigious level of sustainable design and operation, was awarded to the Hitchcock Center on May 2, during the annual Living Future UnConference, held in Seattle, WA.

The Certified Living Award was given by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) after the Center’s building met a full year of strict performance metrics that not only included achieving net zero energy, water and waste, but also the use of locally sourced, nontoxic building materials, native plants for greater biodiversity, and promotion of alternative modes of transportation, among 20 of its Living Building imperatives. Prior to receiving this award, there were only 22 other buildings in the world and 3 in Massachusetts to have successfully achieved this very high bar of sustainable development.

The building was designed by designLAB Architects of Boston and built by Wright Builders of Northampton. Says Johnson about the milestone, “This is a great moment for our community, and I’m really proud of the bold leadership and creative team that made it possible. Truly, this building is the vibrant resource we had hoped it would be, and every day it is integral to how we educate to address the complex challenges of climate change, environmental toxicity, habitat loss and species extinction.”

According to Johnson, the building’s real-time performance is now available as an interactive dashboard and she encourages people to check it out here:


When it came time to build a larger facility to meet the rising demand for greater environmental understanding and action, it was mission-critical for the Hitchcock Center to design, construct and operate a building that would be more restorative than destructive to the natural world.

Through the daily use and experience of composting toilets and net zero energy and water systems, youth and the community are exposed to hopeful, resilient solutions that model what a greener tomorrow can look like.

A curriculum, Learning from Nature: Engineering Design for elementary ages, has been developed by Hitchcock Center educators using the building to foster a greater ability to comprehend how the world works as a physical system and provide fertile ground for new ways of thinking and teaching about sustainability. An introduction to sustainable design concepts, these curricula are designed to meet the Massachusetts Curriculum Standards for STEM education and has been published nationally through the National Science Teachers Association.

This pioneering educational model offers students access to real-world examples and building scenarios using the same challenges presented to the Hitchcock Center’s design-build team. Elementary students engage with the building’s renewable energy systems, water conservation measures, efficient design principles, and composting toilet systems. To date, a total of 60 teachers have been trained on this curricula, and 600 students from 31 classrooms in 26 local schools have participated in this initiative.

Completion of the new building in 2016 enabled the most significant growth in Hitchcock’s 57-year history, strengthening education for a more sustainable future to 13,000 participants annually—a 36% increase in program reach and an increase of 325% more visitors.

Visitors joining the twice-monthly free community building tour program hail from 31 countries – ranging from the Northwest Territories in Canada to Montevideo, Uruguay, from Lithuania to Australia, and from Nigeria to Myanmar and Mongolia. Hitchcock’s other program participants come from 89 communities in Massachusetts and 21 states.


The Hitchcock Center is an award-winning nonprofit organization that works to inspire people to learn about our natural world through innovative, hands-on environmental education programs that explore the interconnections between the health of humans and ecosystems, reinforcing innate bonds with our environment, and looking to nature as a model and measure to improve our quality of life.


The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) is a hub for visionary programs. ILFI offers global strategies for lasting sustainability, partnering with local communities to create grounded and relevant solutions, including green building and infrastructure solutions on scales ranging from single room renovations to neighborhoods or whole cities. ILFI administers the Living Building Challenge, the environment’s most rigorous and ambitious performance standard, as well as the Living Product Challenge and Living Community Challenge. In addition, ILFI offers transparency labels through JUST, Declare, and Reveal. Zero Energy and Zero Carbon certification, and Living Future Accreditation are also available. Additionally, ILFI is home to Ecotone Publishing, a unique publishing house dedicated to telling the story of the green building movement’s pioneering thinkers and practitioners.

Julie Johnson, Executive Director, Hitchcock Center for the Environment
C 413-559-0704 W 413-256-6006

Sam Batchelor, designLAB Architects
W (617) 350-3005


“Congratulations to the Hitchcock Center for securing this prestigious award,” said Anita Walker, Mass Cultural Council’s Executive Director. “The Center’s new Living Certified Building, and the pioneering environmental education it supports, are catalysts for change and examples of the power of culture.”

“The Center’s new Certified Living Building and the forward-thinking curricula it supports is a bold step forward in closing the gap between people’s aspirations for a healthy and sustainable future, and the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to achieve that future.” MA Senator Jo Comerford

“It takes remarkable courage and vision to do what the Hitchcock Center has done. The Center’s new Certified Living Building is an innovative exemplar, critical to answering the question: What does sustainability look like in our community?” Katie Zobel, Executive Director, Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts

Comments are closed.

Click here to return to full list of news entries.

Recent posts


Translate »
Hitchcock Center for the Environment