Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest

Completed 2007
LEED Certified Platinum 2008

Instead of constructing a new building for its environmental programs, Middlebury created an exciting model of resource conservation and energy efficiency through the adaptive reuse of an historic 1875 Vermont farmhouse. Completed in June 2007, the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest serves as the center of environmental leadership and learning at Middlebury, creating a much needed hub for students, staff and faculty to gather and share ideas.


In 2008, the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest received LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council, the highest designation awarded for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This was the first building in Vermont to achieve LEED Platinum, and seventh in the nation under LEED NC 2.2 standards. Local materials, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood, groundwater exchange air-conditioning, energy efficient windows and lights, low-flow faucets, and solar panels are just a few of the sustainable features of his building. More on sustainable building features...


Fostering connections to solve environmental challenge

The renovation of this building, which over the years served as a women’s dormitory, a classroom space, and faculty offices, illustrates how sustainability can be uniquely rooted in history and place. As Middlebury President Ronald D. Liebowitz said,  "With the College’s ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability, this renovation marks a new milestone in bringing historic Vermont buildings up to the sustainability standards so critical to our future.”

The Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest is now home to the Dean of Environmental Affairs, the Environmental Studies program, the Sustainability Integration Office, the Environmental Outreach and Service Learning program, and the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism. There are 14 staff and faculty offices, cozy meeting spaces, study carrels, the Lintilhac Senior Seminar Studio, and The Orchard, a high-tech lecture hall for College events including the weekly Howard E. Woodin Environmental Studies Colloquium Series.

Sustainable Features

Rethinking Energy

To minimize energy needed for air conditioning, only essential spaces (The Orchard and two offices) are cooled using a geothermal exchange system. Cold water from an underground well cools a fluid that circulates through the building cooling the air for these three rooms. This process minimizes electricity use and decreases greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional air conditioning.

This building uses 47% less energy than a standard building of the same size. CFC-free insulating foam (icynene), energy efficient windows (double glazed, low-E coating, argon-filled), and airlocks ensure that the building envelope is extremely tight and energy efficient. Additional efficiency features include appliances that use less energy like the “on demand” hot water system and an Energy Star refrigerator.

Beyond energy conservation, much of the energy that the building does use comes from the solar panels on the roof. The installation consists of 38 panels and can produce a maximum of 8.5 kilowatts (225 watts per panel). These panels were made by SunPower, a large solar company headquartered in San Jose, California with other offices all over the world. The photovoltaic cells absorb solar radiation from the sun and convert it into electricity for the building.  With the installation of photovoltaic solar panels, the Environmental Center is able to reduce its C02 emissions, reduce long-term energy costs, and exemplify using renewable resources.

Going Local

Middlebury College sourced numerous materials locally within the state of Vermont.

  • Slate for floors and roofs that came from the Poultney area
  • Stone for the foundation and stone walls from nearby Panton
  • Granite from Barre
  • Limestone from Isle LaMotte
  • Forest Stewardship Council certified hardwood trim and flooring from College-owned forests.

Vermont furniture makers were commissioned to construct office desks, chairs, tables and study carrels made from local wood, which in most cases was also certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

  • Chairs by Cotswold, located in Whiting
  • Tables and desks with surfaces made from sunflower husks by Neudorfer, from Waterbury
  • Cabinets from Business Interiors in Burlington
  • Sofas from Pompanoosuc Mills in East Thetford