Sustainability center earns green building award

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The Whitefish School District’s Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship recently received the Mountain West Leadership Award from the U.S. Green Building Council. The center, located next to Whitefish High School, is expected to be completed in April. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

Construction of the Whitefish School District’s Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship is ongoing, but it’s already received an award.

The center was recently selected for a Mountain West Leadership Award from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Through their annual leadership awards, the Mountain West region celebrates the best of green building and sustainable market transformation, recognizing leadership in buildings, technology, partners and individuals at the local and regional levels. This award celebrates the innovative projects and people that are leading towards a more resilient, healthy and equitable future, according to a release from the school district.

Whitefish’s sustainability center was up against applications from projects in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. The award will be celebrated at three separate events around the region.

Ryder Delaloye, Curriculum Director for Whitefish School District, will accept the award at the USGBC Montana Annual Summit and Leadership Awards on March 8–9 in Butte.

“Being chosen for this is a testament to the hard work that so many people have contributed to this project,” Delaloye said. “It honors their contributions and recognizes that it is a shared effort. Although the district is accepting the award, it really lives within the legacy of those who contributed directly, those who contributed philanthropically and those who will contribute in the future. This is a recognition of all the hard work that so many people have put into making this a reality.”

Over the last two years, the sustainability center has evolved from plans for a simple greenhouse into a two-story, multi-million dollar outdoor learning center, with private funding of $2.35 million already secured through the Whitefish Community Foundation. About $2.1 million will cover capital expenses, like building and landscaping, while roughly $300,000 will go toward start up costs for educational programming.

Early designs featured a greenhouse attached to a small classroom. Since then, teachers and designers have increased the size, expanded it into a K-12 project, and incorporated outdoor learning areas. The building is also designed to be net-zero in its energy use, the first in the state of Montana, according to the school district.

Right now construction is going according to plan, Delaloye said, and the center should hit its opening day goal of Earth Day on Saturday, April 21.

“We’re having a significant snow year, so the grounds will be an ongoing project and will require ongoing work, but the [center] itself will be completed and ready to go,” Delaloye said. “We’re thrilled to share it with the community and the school district.”

For the inaugural celebration, the center is set to be open to the public for workshops and tours during an Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 21 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those interested in learning more about the event can contact Citizens for a Better Flathead or visit http://www.flatheadcitizens.org/flathead-earth-day/.

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