Just north of I-80, between Toledo and Cleveland, is an unexpected educational facility that is setting a shining example of sustainable building for ecological and human health. Completed in 2000, the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies is an ongoing green build experiment, as its energy performance is studied and adjusted as green technologies continue to evolve. We wouldn’t expect less from Inhabitat favorite William McDonough + Partners, but were surprised to find that this particular PV-powered experiment was taking place in Ohio. It just goes to show that you don’t have to live in sunny California in order to efficiently harvest solar power.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

As the keystone building of Oberlin College’s Environmental Studies program, the Adam Joseph Lewis Center is ensuring that their students get hands-on training, by experiencing an ecologically friendly environment on a daily basis. All the materials within the center are recycled, reused, or sustainably grown and harvested. All of the fixtures and systems from the lighting, the plumbing, the air-conditioning are energy efficient and passive whenever possible.

The interior and exterior landscape of the building contains a variety of constructed native northern Ohio ecosystems that not only provide food, but also provide responsible stormwater management and storage. The unique landscape ecosystem houses an onsite ‘living machine’ that naturally cleanses and recycles wastewater for reuse.

Through curriculum and practice, the Adam Joseph Lewis Center is reinvestigating the human footprint left on the world, making it both a place of experimentation and demonstration while asking whether or not “… it (is) possible to build without compromising human and environmental health somewhere else or at some later time?” Only time will tell, but eight years later, they’re still leading the curve and asking the right questions, and finding sustainable solutions that are ecologically friendly.

+ William McDonough + Parnters