R.W. Kern Center July 2016

News & Events

Hampshire To Dedicate R.W. Kern Center with Daylong Community Event

'What Buildings Should Do' event to explore environmentalism and environmental justice with national thought leaders, hands-on workshops

Hampshire College has announced the dedication of the R.W. Kern Center, its extraordinary net-zero-energy and -water building, constructed of mostly local and entirely nontoxic materials. The special, daylong event "What Buildings Should Do" will take place Friday, September 16, beginning at 9:00 a.m. and featuring a dedication ceremony at 10:00 a.m. plus symposiums, hands-on workshops, student presentations, and more. Members of the Hampshire community are invited to RSVP for the day’s events and to sign up for the workshops here.

R.W. Kern Center

A highlight of the event is a keynote panel, from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m., with Peabody Award–winning broadcaster and urban revitalization strategy consultant Majora Carter; environmentalist/author Bill McKibben; and Buckminster Fuller Prize–winner Jason F. McLennan. The panel will be moderated by Gabriel Arboleda, Five College professor of environmental design.

Among the speakers for the dedication ceremony are Hampshire President Jonathan Lash and Hampshire alum Gary Hirshberg 72F, who made the first major investment in Hampshire's sustainability initiative launched at the start of Lash's presidency with a major gift announced at his inauguration. Hirshberg co-founded Stonyfield Yogurt and built it into the largest maker of organic yogurt in the country, led the growth of the organic food market that has shaped dairy and agricultural practices around the world, and leads the "Just Label It" campaign to require food manufacturers to inform consumers when they use ingredients from genetically modified organisms.

The event promises to be a day of putting ideas into action, centered on the critical issue of our time, reflected in the event title and theme. As Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash posed in his invitation to the community, “What is a structure’s impact on health, happiness, and well-being as seen through the lenses of sustainability and social justice, energy and aesthetics, water and place?”

EVENT SCHEDULE Friday, September 16  Dedication, Symposium, and Workshops

9:00-9:45am: Keynote: Majora Carter, Urban Revitalization Strategist Robert Crown Center

10:00-10:30am: R.W. Kern Center Dedication Ceremony Main Stage Tent

10:30-11:45am: Symposium Main Stage Tent


  • Majora Carter, Urban Revitalization Strategist
  • Bill McKibben, Author and Co-Founder of 350.org
  • Jason McLennan, Creator of the Living Building Challenge
  • Gabriel Arboleda, Five College Assistant Professor of Environmental Design (Discussion Moderator)
  • Naomi Darling, Five College Assistant Professor of Sustainable Architecture (Workshop Facilitator)

11:45am-1:00pm: Community Lunch

  • Lunch will be fully compostable and recyclable. It will include 100% vegan fare and be sourced, in part, from the Hampshire Farm Center.
  • Note: The Dining Commons will be closed for lunch. Lunch for the Hampshire community will be served only as part of the dedication events.

12:30-1:30pm: Short Tours, leave from Pop-Up Farm Stand

A pop-up Hampshire Farm stand will be available throughout the day for you to purchase fresh-popped corn, maple syrup, produce, tote bags, and more. Learn more about Hampshire Farm as it celebrates 25 years of community-supported agriculture.

Featured Tours

  • Solar Array, Hampshire Farm Center, R.W. Kern Center

1:30pm: Workshops

  • Workshop 1: Impacting Industry (Main Stage Tent)
  • Workshop 2: Impacting Education: (Dining Tent)
  • Workshop 3: Impacting Environmental Justice (Robert Crown Center)

1:30-3:00pm: Extended Tours, leave from Pop-Up Farm Stand. Featured Tours

  • Solar Array, Hampshire Farm Center, R.W. Kern Center

3:15-3:45pm: Workshop Wrap-up and Closing Main Stage Tent


The R.W. Kern Center is a living symbol of Hampshire’s values in practice and ideas in action. The college’s first new building in almost three decades, it was constructed with the goal of becoming one of only a dozen buildings worldwide certified under the world’s most rigorous green-building standard, the Living Building Challenge (LBC): to operate using net-zero energy, water, and waste; to be constructed using materials mainly from local and regional sources; and to avoid toxic “red-list” materials, right down to the duct tape allowed on-site.

Its construction was made possible by private donations.

The center houses the offices of admissions and financial aid, classrooms, student social areas, and the Kern Kafé. It is also a living laboratory for ongoing studies of the building and its systems.

The Kern Center is one of the major projects of Hampshire’s broad sustainability initiative. The college is working toward making campus operations carbon neutral, and is also planning for the campus this year to go 100 percent solar for its electricity.

Photos by Amanda Schwengel

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