Biomass Heats Hotchkiss

CENTERBROOK, Conn. – The new Biomass Central Heating Facility at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut was designed by Centerbrook and is heating virtually the entire campus of more than 600 residents by burning woodchips. Using the local and sustainably harvested biofuel, the plant is reducing the school’s carbon footprint by 35 to 45 percent and saving on utility costs.

Hotchkiss reports on its website that the plant is exceeding expectations in its first heating season.

Featuring a low, undulating and sloping green roof, the building has a distinctive profile while simultaneously nestling discreetly into its surroundings: nearby woodlands and wetland on one side, and a golf course on the other.

“We wanted to establish a building that would, at once, exhibit a seminal and winsome presence while, at the same time, disappearing into the landscape in sympathy with nature,” said Jefferson B. Riley, the Centerbrook partner in charge of the project. Riley, FAIA, who previously had designed the Esther Eastman Music Center at Hotchkiss, led a Centerbrook team that included Alan Paradis, LEED AP, Mark Herter, AIA and LEED AP, and Eric Lubeck.

The design of the building also has garnered attention from the media, including Green Source Magazine and ArchDaily.

The building also serves an educational mission, exposing its technologies and wood structure to tours of students and community groups who have access to a mezzanine balcony that overlooks and circumnavigates the boiler room. The mezzanine displays a wall-mounted exhibit and a series of interactive computer consoles that track performance data.

The facility is critical to the school’s commitment to becoming a carbon-neutral campus by 2020. Hotchkiss is an independent boarding school with some 600 students in grades 9 through 12 who hail from across the United States and abroad. The facility is one of only a handful of heating plants in the country designed to LEED standards.