Sustainable Design

At IslandWood, we are active participants in energy conservation, composting, recycling, and harnessing alternative energy sources. In fact, all of the facilities on our campus feature numerous sustainable elements — elements that help restore and maintain our site and remind visitors that even our simple, day-to-day tasks have an impact on the environment.

As children, teachers, and others visit our campus, they are, quite literally, surrounded by practical lessons in how to live more responsibly within the natural world.

Click here to view a video on YouTube about IslandWood's "Buildings that Teach."

Following is a list of sustainable design features included in each of our campus buildings.

General Overview

  • Solar meadows and building orientations maximize passive solar gain. High performance windows optimize solar heat gain and reduce energy consumption.
  • All concrete contains 50% flyash, a recycled utility waste product of coal.
  • Natural ventilation replaces air conditioning. Buildings designed using computer modeling to locate window openings and operable skylights for maximum air circulation.
  • Walk-off mats at entry doors are made from recycled tires.
  • Many building materials are left untreated to reduce off-gassing of volatile organic compounds.
  • Roof rainwater collected at several buildings used for landscape irrigation.
  • Wood harvested from solar meadows used for exterior siding and interior trim throughout project.
  • More than 50% of wood products are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.

Main Center – includes Welcome Center, Great Hall, and Administration

  • The small sections of carpet found in the Administration Office are made from 95%-recycled carpet.
  • A 92-foot, 120-year-old salvaged wood beam serves as a major design element in the primary roof truss.
  • Flooring is assembled from salvaged wood.
  • Skylight and mechanically operated louvers provide solar heating and natural ventilation.

Dining Hall

  • Solar-heated water for kitchen, restrooms, and laundry operation.
  • Photovoltaic-powered fans for room ventilation.
  • Bathrooms feature recycled glass tiles in floor and wainscoting.

Educational Studios

  • Photovoltaic roof panels provide 50% of lighting and electrical needs.
  • Composting toilets eliminate water use.
  • An interpretive interface in the Sustainability Classroom allows students to electronically monitor their energy and water consumption.
  • Each classroom features a different sustainable flooring: cork, bamboo, recycled rubber, and concrete.
  • Bathroom stall partitions are made from recycled plastic.
  • Each classroom countertop features a different sustainable surface: recycled-content concrete, recycled yogurt container composite, or soybean/sunflower seed bio-composite.

Creative Arts Studio

  • Walls are constructed from straw bales.
  • High-efficiency wood stove provides alternative heat source.
  • Skylights and bay windows provide natural day lighting.

Sleeping Lodges

  • Solar-heated water from roofs preheats water for showers and sinks.
  • Upstairs areas feature cork flooring, a renewable resource and sound absorber.
  • Throw rugs in bunkrooms are woven from upholstery remnants and discarded clothing.
  • Flooring in Great Room and Loft made from recycled wood.

Living Machine

  • An on-site treatment system provides tertiary treatment of wastewater. The reclaimed water is used for low-flush toilets and potential landscape irrigation.


  • A detailed site and resource analysis was used to locate campus buildings in areas that would cause the least impact to the most sensitive areas— including mature forests and wetlands.
  • Initial "bio-mass re-use” of all organic debris on site during the clearing and construction.
  • Children and visitors help restore the site with native plants from an on-site nursery.
  • Extensive native plantings throughout, and long-term planning for invasive species eradication.
  • Vermiculture and "Earth Tub" composting systems for food and plant waste.
  • All wastewater is treated on site using either the Living Machine or constructed wetlands. Both systems utilize a natural biodegradation process in which aquatic plants, microorganisms, and snails consume the organic matter and produce a highly treated effluent that can be re-used or applied safely to the surrounding soil.

Wood Use

  • Sustainably harvested wood was purchased and used in 75% of the entire project"s construction.
  • Site-harvested trees, cleared for siting the buildings on campus, were dried and milled, and used in exterior and interior trim.
  • Untreated plywood and oriented strand board (OSB), made from smaller trees and chips, cover interior surfaces.
  • Engineered lumber and trusses were utilized for roof and floor framing, reducing the need for large and older growth timber. Engineered lumber is more resource efficient than standard lumber–sawdust, fibers, chips, and small pieces of lumber are used in their assembly. Engineered lumber performs better with less material than conventional lumber. Trusses and glu lams are also made from sustainably harvested woods
  • There are several types of engineered lumber materials:
    1. Glue lam beams, which are manufactured by end joining individual pieces of dimension lumber together with adhesives to create long length laminations. The laminations are face bonded together to create large size beams with small dimensional lumber.
    2. Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) is engineered lumber manufactured by using built-up veneer sheets and bonding them together with adhesives to create a stronger beam than an equivalent size dimensional lumber.
    3. Parallams (PSL) is engineered lumber manufactured by using horizontal wood fibers bonded together with adhesives to create a stronger beam than an equivalent size dimensional lumber.


  • Low energy computers and monitors for instructional and administrative uses consume one third of the energy of most common desktop computers.
  • Integrated phone, data, and video network with a fiber optic backbone between buildings save six miles of copper wire over traditional wiring techniques.
  • Affordable electricity production from readily available renewable resources is featured throughout the site, including: wind-power at the Learning Studios, a micro-hydro component at Mac's Pond, and the photovoltaic on the classroom roofs.