14.7.2014

Sustainability Treehouse

The Sustainability Treehouse sits at the edge of the Appalachian forest within the 10,600 acres of the Summit Bechtel Reserve. The Summit is the new home for the Boy Scout Jamboree, a High Adventure Base, and a year-round destination for leadership training.

In order to create a catalytic project that inspires the Scouts’ movement towards a sustainable future, The Treehouse not only targets the rigorous Living Building Challenge, but was also the first public facility developed at the Summit.

This highly interactive facility serves as an engaging icon of scouting adventure, environmental stewardship and high performance building design. Visitors ascend indoor and outdoor platforms to experience the forest from multiple vantages and engage with educational exhibits that explore the site and ecosystem at the levels of ground, tree canopy and sky. Innovative green building systems—including a 6,450-watt photovoltaic array output, two 4,000-watt wind turbines, and a 1,000-gallon cistern and water cleansing system—combine to yield a net-zero energy and net-zero water facility that touches its site lightly. Overall, the Treehouse captures the wonder of childhood exploration and places environmental education at the forefront of meaningful experiences and camp messages for thousands of annual visitors to take home.

Integrated Design
Collaborating closely with Trinity Works, Mithun led the integrated design process to achieve an engaging, high-performance building targeting Living Building certification. The Living Building Challenge is an inspirational and demanding metric for sustainable design and building performance that requires the Treehouse to produce and manage all of its own energy, water and waste on site. In order to meet the tight thirty-month window for project delivery, Trinity Works organized the process into intensive charette sessions with contractor feedback at strategic intervals. These sessions were interspersed with Production efforts to coalesce ideas and integrate systems followed. BNIM undertook construction documentation and review, working with Swope Construction to implement the vision for this extraordinary facility.

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Towering 125′ above grade, the Treehouse is supported by a corten steel frame engineered by Tipping Mar, creating a seamless fusion of architecture and structural engineering, where visitors can ascend multiple indoor and outdoor platforms and experience the forest of the Summit Reserve from many vantages, from the forest floor to the canopy and sky above. Through innovative mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems design by Integral Group, such as a 6,450 watt photovoltaic array output, two 4,000 watt wind turbines, and a 1,000 gallon cistern and water cleansing system, the Treehouse harvests all of its own energy and water. Interactive exhibits by Volume, Inc. showcase and celebrate sustainable technologies, revealing how systems work and highlighting performance. Overall, the Treehouse serves as a living classroom to educate visitors about sustainable design strategies, as well as the important balance of stewardship and resources in the region and beyond.

Design Inspirations
The design of the Treehouse is fundamentally rooted to place, emerging from numerous site and regional factors and influences. The primary outward expression of the Sustainability Treehouse is imparted by a recycled content weathering steel mega structure and locally-harvested FSC certified wood – materials and an aesthetic principally inspired by regional historic industrial structures. It also reflects the ingenuity of ‘pioneering engineering’, a scouting tradition based on team development of towers and structures from elemental materials and methods. The layering of the Treehouse parallels the layering of its setting – from the edible forage forest floor to the canopy and the sky – carefully sited and arranged vertically to preserve the surrounding forest. Promoting the scouting virtue of environmental stewardship, building systems have been made visible, becoming overt expressions of site-responsive, sustainable design.

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Immersive Experience
The Treehouse teaches about sustainable design and environmental stewardship through immersive experiences, such as climbing and perching in the trees, exploring with friends, and studying nature from new vantage points. Indoor and outdoor ‘galleries’ celebrate the earth, the trees, and the sky. Engaging and interactive exhibits, such as the tippy-cup rain chain, the “recyclotron” bicycle-powered light display, and the wheel of sustainability, reveal and make tangible aspects of water and energy conservation, habitat, and bioclimatic design, leaving visitors with a better understanding of connections between their actions and the health of the environment.

Features and FAQs:
• GSF (interior): 3,357 SF
• GSF (platform/deck area): 2,448 SF
• 125 Feet High (73 Feet occupiable space)
• 6,450W Photovoltaic Array Output
• 4,000W each Vertical Wind Turbine with an annual output of 4,560kWh, considering 5mph wind
• 1,000 Gallon Rainwater Catchment Cistern
• FSC Certified Black Locust
• Locally-Felled White Oak
• LED Lighting
• Aerobic Compost Toilet Units
• 116.5 ton corten steel “megastructure”
• 254 tons steel total
• Number of Stairs: 230
• 70 species in the edible forest landscape

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