The Willow School has achieved the first Living Building certification in New Jersey from the International Living Future Institute. Willow’s Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center is now one of only 14 certified Living Buildings worldwide. At 20,000 square feet, the multi-use educational center is also the largest certified Living Building at any school in the United States.
Willow will celebrate this achievement with a special event on November 16. Former New Jersey governor and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency Christie Todd Whitman will speak to students, parents, faculty, and guests, followed by student-led tours.
The building is an embodiment of the school’s mission, curriculum and core values. It exemplifies The Willow School’s commitment to sustainability, systems thinking, and an ethical relationship with nature.
“Building and operating a Living Building is a way for the school community to truly experience one of The Willow School’s core pillars, education in ethical living, both between people and between people and our natural world,” Mark Biedron, co-founder of The Willow School, said. “A Living Building truly exemplifies the regenerative spirit of The Willow School, where people and nature co-evolve together to form higher levels of expression.“
Designed to function as beautifully and elegantly as nature’s architecture, certified Living Buildings must, in part, generate all of their own energy through clean, renewable resources, capture and treat their own water through ecologically sound techniques, and incorporate only nontoxic, appropriately-sourced materials. Buildings achieve full certification status after meeting all twenty “imperatives” of the performance standards required by the Institute after one full year of occupancy.
The Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center includes classrooms, commercial and teaching kitchens, a dining room, health and wellness spaces, a faculty room, and an energy gallery. The building produces more energy than it consumes through the 250-roof top solar panels and employs multiple strategies to minimize water use, including low-flow fixtures, rainwater harvesting, and on-site water treatment. The adjacent school garden uses collected rain water for irrigation and composted organic waste from the school kitchens. The building not only meets these standards, it also provides its students with a healthy learning environment through abundant access to natural light, fresh air, and exceptional indoor air quality.
Since it was first unveiled in April 2015, the building has been deeply integrated into the school’s curriculum. It is used as a teaching tool in many ways: students mathematically track energy usage and waste recovery, create and explore international cuisines in the teaching kitchen, study the scientific characteristics of plants on campus, and plant and harvest food from the garden to supplement the school’s lunch program.
“The Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center is a model for our students and visitors,” said Jerry Loewen, Willow’s Head of School. “It demonstrates how sustainable thinking, in its broadest context, can be used to construct solutions that are in balance with our natural world and to consider the full impact of our actions. Our students are taught to think this way at Willow, and we hope they will continue to exercise and demand this type of thinking throughout their future.”
Willow’s History of Commitment to Sustainability
Since its establishment in 2000, Willow has served as a national leader in sustainability and environmental stewardship. Its Schoolhouse Building became the first school building in the United States to achieve USGBC LEED Gold certification in 2003. Willow’s second construction project, the Barn, became one of only seven other structures in the nation, and first in New Jersey to receive LEED Platinum status in 2007. Willow was awarded the first NJ Green Ribbon School Award by the US Department of Education in 2012. Willow students interactive with nature in and out of the classroom on the 34 acre campus, which includes fields, woods, a stream, constructed wetlands, nature trails, a garden, and athletic fields.