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A Sustainable Educational Center for the Boy Scouts of America

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The Boy Scouts of America builds a sustainable tree house in West Virginia.
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  Visitors learn about energy and water conservation as they climb outdoor staircases that lead from the forest floor to the 125-foot-high rooftop rising above the leaf canopy. Photo by Joe Fletcher.  Photo by: Joe Fletcher Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher
    Visitors learn about energy and water conservation as they climb outdoor staircases that lead from the forest floor to the 125-foot-high rooftop rising above the leaf canopy. Photo by Joe Fletcher.

    Photo by: Joe Fletcher

    Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher

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  The Sustainability tree house is home base for the National Scout Jamboree, a weeklong event that's usually held every four years. The 2013 event was the first held at the new location in the Summit Bechtel Reserve. Seattle-based firm Mithun led the multidisciplinary team that worked on the project. BNIM is the architect of record, Nelson Byrd Woltz masterminded the landscaping, the structural engineering is by by Tipping Mar, and the exhibit design is by Volume, Inc. and Studio Terpeluk.  Photo by: Joe Fletcher Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher
    The Sustainability tree house is home base for the National Scout Jamboree, a weeklong event that's usually held every four years. The 2013 event was the first held at the new location in the Summit Bechtel Reserve. Seattle-based firm Mithun led the multidisciplinary team that worked on the project. BNIM is the architect of record, Nelson Byrd Woltz masterminded the landscaping, the structural engineering is by by Tipping Mar, and the exhibit design is by Volume, Inc. and Studio Terpeluk.

    Photo by: Joe Fletcher

    Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher

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  Mithun designed the tree house so that it would tread lightly on the land. The firm originally considered prefabricating the entire structure offsite but, in the research process, concluded that craning large modules into place would potentially harm the canopy. A combination of a bolted-together prefab structure and site-built wood housing yielded the least intrusive construction option. 

The Summit Bechtel Reserve is located in West Virginia's coal mining country. The architects looked to the local structures—bridges, mining apparatus, and other industrial buildings—to inform the tree house's design. A 166-ton Cor-Ten steel megastructure supports the 125-foot-tall building. The use of regionally appropriate materials, like steel and black locust wood, was important to the architects.  Photo by: Joe Fletcher Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher
    Mithun designed the tree house so that it would tread lightly on the land. The firm originally considered prefabricating the entire structure offsite but, in the research process, concluded that craning large modules into place would potentially harm the canopy. A combination of a bolted-together prefab structure and site-built wood housing yielded the least intrusive construction option. The Summit Bechtel Reserve is located in West Virginia's coal mining country. The architects looked to the local structures—bridges, mining apparatus, and other industrial buildings—to inform the tree house's design. A 166-ton Cor-Ten steel megastructure supports the 125-foot-tall building. The use of regionally appropriate materials, like steel and black locust wood, was important to the architects.

    Photo by: Joe Fletcher

    Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher

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  Visitors scale a series of outdoor staircases that wind their way up the structure. Volume and Studio Terpeluk turned the risers into a teaching moment about energy use and the impact of every day activities.  Photo by: Joe Fletcher Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher
    Visitors scale a series of outdoor staircases that wind their way up the structure. Volume and Studio Terpeluk turned the risers into a teaching moment about energy use and the impact of every day activities.

    Photo by: Joe Fletcher

    Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher

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  At the structure's top, a 4,000-watt wind turbine and 6,500-watt photovoltaic array offers lessons about renewable energy.  Photo by: Joe Fletcher Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher
    At the structure's top, a 4,000-watt wind turbine and 6,500-watt photovoltaic array offers lessons about renewable energy.

    Photo by: Joe Fletcher

    Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher

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  The "Tippy Cup Rain Chain" teaches the children about water conservation.  Photo by: Joe Fletcher Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher
    The "Tippy Cup Rain Chain" teaches the children about water conservation.

    Photo by: Joe Fletcher

    Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher

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  A bench offers a place to rest and take in the surrounding tree canopy. Creating opportunities for contemplation is another key element of the structure's design.  Photo by: Joe Fletcher Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher
    A bench offers a place to rest and take in the surrounding tree canopy. Creating opportunities for contemplation is another key element of the structure's design.

    Photo by: Joe Fletcher

    Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher

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  The structure's mission is to teach visitors about the environment and sustainability. San Francisco–based studio Volume designed the exhibition program, which offers interactive displays about water conservation, energy use, recycling, and more.  Photo by: Joe Fletcher Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher
    The structure's mission is to teach visitors about the environment and sustainability. San Francisco–based studio Volume designed the exhibition program, which offers interactive displays about water conservation, energy use, recycling, and more.

    Photo by: Joe Fletcher

    Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher

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  An exhibit on biodiversity offers insight into local flora and fauna.  Photo by: Joe Fletcher Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher
    An exhibit on biodiversity offers insight into local flora and fauna.

    Photo by: Joe Fletcher

    Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher

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  Mithun wanted to engage the scouts with all elements of the forest: the floor, the canopy, and a perspective above the tree tops. In one of the viewing rooms, visitors get the feeling of being fully surrounded by leaves.  Photo by: Joe Fletcher Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher
    Mithun wanted to engage the scouts with all elements of the forest: the floor, the canopy, and a perspective above the tree tops. In one of the viewing rooms, visitors get the feeling of being fully surrounded by leaves.

    Photo by: Joe Fletcher

    Courtesy of: Joe Fletcher

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