Rubenstein HQ to transform itself into green “living machine”

The Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources continues to pursue renovation of its Aiken headquarters, to make it the country’s greenest academic building, according to the Rubenstein School web site. The greening of Aiken will “help redefine the relationship between building, landscape, and people in a way that demonstrates a pathway to a more sustainable future,” according to the project’s Web site. Both faculty and students have contributed to the design of the project by tackling issues such as water and energy conservation, ecological landscaping, building design, renewable energy sources and LEED Building certification, according to the Web site. Additionally, the Rubenstein School has created courses related to the project, enabling its students to work with the project architects and planners, taking on aspects such as alternative energy, waste and building monitoring systems. The idea for the proposed $250 million initiative has been in the works for some time, however it was not until May 2004 that a design competition was held and the subsequent results awarded the project design concepts to William Maclay Architects and Planners in Waitsfield, according to the Web site. When expansion and renovation are complete, the Aiken Center will have cutting-edge green features including solar panels, com?posting toilets, waterless facilities, natural lighting and ventilation, energy neutrality, a thermal regulating pond cooling system and a year-round greenhouse, according to the Web site. The idea is to additionally incorporate a “living machine,” an invention of Rubenstein School professor John Todd. The living machine is “an advanced, ecologically engineered wastewater treatment system that mirrors the process of decomposition that occurs in the natural world,” according to The View. The revamped Aiken Center will not only be a forefront nation-wide leader in environmental design initiatives, but it “will also help create a new generation of ecologically literate citizens,” according to the Web site. “The Aiken Center will represent a harbinger of a sustainable future, a ‘green beacon’ to those on-campus and to those coming into the city of Burlington,” according to the Web site.