Educational Opportunities for Students

Letter to Editor, of the Standard Times: Leaders Educators & Innovators
By: Kathryn Duff, studio2sustain inc, Lloyd Center for the Environment, Board of Directors
8 May 2017

The Standard Times recently featured an article about the partnership between the Lloyd Center for the Environment (LCE) and the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School (GNB-VOC) relative to the construction of the LCE Welcome Center, and the pursuit of a “Living Building Challenge” certification. As the Architect of this project I wanted to highlight both the Lloyd Center and GNBVOC, in particular the extraordinary leadership by both organizations, resulting in exceptional educational opportunities for students.

The LCE is pursuing a “Living Building Challenge” (LBC) certification on this project – the first in Southeastern, MA, and among very few worldwide. An LBC certification is considered the most rigorous environmental achievement for buildings; there are only twelve fully certified buildings worldwide. It is an honor to work with LCE Executive Director Rachel Stronach and her team on this impactful, rigorous and visionary project, and with GNB-VOC Superintendent James O’Brien and his team, including students.

LBC is a challenging program (, with rigorous design, technical, construction and performance standards. The LCE Welcome Center can only achieve certification as a “Living Building” after incorporating twenty mandated “Imperatives” and then twelve continuous months of successful operation upon completion. The twenty imperatives mandate net-positive energy and water, meaning all energy and water consumed must be generated and/or disposed/treated on-site. In addition, all building materials must meet strict composition and carbon footprint mandates; these products must not contain materials with “Red List” chemicals. This building will have a compost toilet system, grey-water treatment garden, and all interior wood will be lumber re-claimed from the oak trees felled during site preparation, in addition to other carbon off-set, education, and beauty mandates. The energy-modeling program alone is a 20 page excel spreadsheet!

But as difficult and complicated as this project is, there was discernable elation on behalf of the GNB-VOC team at the prospect of involving students in this challenging, impactful and transformative project. Lead by Superintendent James O’Brien, the GNB-VOC team leapt at the opportunity to partner with the Lloyd Center and studio2sustain (s2s) in the design and construction of the Welcome Center. When invited to an initial meeting with Rachel Stronach, the LCE team and studio2sustain, Superintendent O’Brien arrived with a team of Department Heads and Director of Community Outreach, Mr. Rob Gomes. Following the presentation, GNB-VOC asked detailed questions about the building and the LBC program – identifying many opportunities for student involvement and curriculum development around the project.

The Welcome Center will incorporate state-of-the art construction, renewable energy and resource recycling technologies, nearly all new to GNB-VOC students and staff. Yet, without hesitation, Superintendent O’Brien showed exceptional leadership, vision and collaboration. He empowered the GNB-VOC team to, “work with the Lloyd Center and s2s, and bring these learning opportunities to our students.” He immediately identified the capacity of the LCE team and Welcome Center project, beautifully articulating the role for hands-on learning – placing the head in the hands.

There is so much to learn from great leadership, great projects and great educational programs. These efforts can and should empower our community to come together to share resources for all of New Bedford (and regional) students, families, and educators. The LCE Welcome Center is a building OF students, BY students, FOR students. This legacy project will play an important role in educating students for 21st Century jobs in construction trades, arts, sciences and technology.

Bravo to Rachel Stronach and her team of educators and researchers at he Lloyd Center and to Superintendent O’Brian and his team of educators at GNB-VOC. It is a pleasure and an honor working with you all on this impactful project.