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Oberlin College's Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies will be one of the most advanced examples of ecological architecture in America.

"The Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies," says Oberlin College President Nancy S. Dye, "will serve as the College's centerpiece in our efforts to provide the best possible laboratory for environmental education today." Architect William McDonough, who in 1996 won the first Presidential Award for Sustainable Development, the nation's highest environmental honor, is head architect for the 14,000 square foot building. In 1993, Time Magazine called McDonough ". . .one of the most visionary of the green designers."

David Orr, a nationally-known expert called an "environmental guru" by The New York Times, chairs Oberlin's environmental studies program. He led more than 250 students, faculty and town residents in discussions with national ecological designers during the building's initial design phase charettes, in 1995 and 1996.

Inspired by Orr's vision and direction and Oberlin's dedication to the project, Adam Joseph Lewis, for whom the building is named, has provided leadership support by contributing the initial $1 million for the building with additional support from the Lewis family, bringing the total family commitment to $3.25 million.

"For many years I have searched for examples of where one can give as much to his environment as one takes," says Lewis, of Cleveland, Ohio. "This center is a paragon of environmental design. Each part and process of the building gives and takes. I am so pleased to support the center, and more pleased that we will all continue to learn from it."

More than a building where teaching takes place, the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies will be a place that teaches. Here, by virtue of the building's design concepts, students will learn, among other things, ecological competence and mindfulness of place; competence with environmental technologies; analytical skills in assessing full costs over the building's lifetime; and how nature's principle that "waste equals food" can be successfully adapted for manufacturing processes and building materials. Worn carpeting, for example, will be sent back to the manufacturer for disassembly and reuse.

President Dye calls the center "a model for sustainable design in the areas of energy, water, waste, materials, landscape and aesthetics." Orr says that the building, "designed to cause no ugliness, human or ecological, somewhere else or at some later time," will:

Guiding the project from its inception through construction were such leaders in the fields of ecology, education and architecture as Amory Lovins and Bill Browning from the Rocky Mountain Institute; scientists from the NASA Lewis Space Center; John Todd and Michael Shaw, leading figures in the field of ecological engineering; the late landscape architect John Lyle and the firm of Andropogon, Inc.; and structural, electrical and mechanical engineers Lev Zetlin, Inc.

Written by: Oberlin College - Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies


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