Collection by Diana Budds

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.

In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America made conservation a stronger focus of the organization by introducing a new sustainability merit badge and opening an educational center in the 10,600-acre Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. Using the Living Building Challenge as a guide (a rigorous set of construction standards similar to LEED), Seattle-based architecture firm Mithun spearheaded a multidisciplinary team to create a tree house that would turn lessons into an adventure. Sited on a former coal mine, the building features a locally made prefabricated steel megastructure, FSC-certified black locust wood housing, a photovoltaic array, a wind turbine, and a rainwater catchment system. 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. Brendan Connolly, a partner at Mithun, takes pride in the architectural promenade: “The experience of moving through the trees was more powerful than we imagined,” he says.

Visitors learn about energy and water conservation as they climb outdoor staircases that lead from the forest floor to…
The Sustainability tree house is home base for the National Scout Jamboree, a weeklong event that's usually held every…
Mithun designed the tree house so that it would tread lightly on the land. The firm originally considered…
Visitors scale a series of outdoor staircases that wind their way up the structure. Volume and Studio Terpeluk turned…
At the structure's top, a 4,000-watt wind turbine and 6,500-watt photovoltaic array offers lessons about renewable…
The "Tippy Cup Rain Chain" teaches the children about water conservation.
A bench offers a place to rest and take in the surrounding tree canopy. Creating opportunities for contemplation is…
The structure's mission is to teach visitors about the environment and sustainability. San Francisco–based studio…
An exhibit on biodiversity offers insight into local flora and fauna.
Mithun wanted to engage the scouts with all elements of the forest: the floor, the canopy, and a perspective above the…
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